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Copyright is governed by Title 17 of the United States Code Sections 106-122. The L.W. Tyree Library encourages all users to uphold and to follow copyright law and regulations.

The librarians of Santa Fe College are not lawyers or legal experts and this guide is offered as an overview of copyright.

This guide is designed to aid members of the Santa Fe College community to get a understanding of how copyright law can affect academic projects.

How Important is Copyright?

US Constitution The basis for Copyright law is in the US Constitution Article I Section 8. The purpose of the law was to encourage the creation and distribution of the "Arts and Sciences" (US Constitution) while protecting the rights of the creator to profit from their work. 

Ideally copyright was and is considered to be an important basis for the rich culture and advancing technology that placed the US in the forefront of creative and technological development.

The details of the law were ratified at the first US Congress in 1790. Over time the law has been amended again and again to deal with changing technologies and formats of print, recorded, and electronic materials.

Among the latest changes is the Fair Use Act (Title 17 Section 107) which sets out to distinguish legal use of copyrighted materials in the field of education. To learn more about fair use, see the Fair Use and Copyright on Campus page of this guide.

Copyright -- What is Protected

Some of the types of items covered by copyright law:‚Äč

  • Literary works
  • Musical works, including any accompanying words
  • Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works
  • Computer software

What can't be copyrighted:

  • Ideas, theories, concepts
  • Procedures, methods, processes
  • Titles, names, short phrases and slogans, familiar symbols or designs, variations of type styles, lists of ingredients
  • Facts
  • Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship (e.g. standard calendars, height and weight charts, tables taken from public documents)
  • Works of the U.S. government

These works are in the public domain, meaning they are freely available for use without copyright restrictions. (University of Rhode Island, University Libraries)

Latest Copyright Duration Periods

The protection to creative works varies. Eventually all copyrighted materials pass into the public domain.

The most current list of copyright duration can be found in a chart from Columbia University Libraries.

Copyright Violation (Infringement) Penalties

If a person or organization uses a copyrighted item without permission, the Copyright Law makes it possible for the copyright holder to sue for monetary damages. Additionally criminal prosecution may be pursued in the federal court system.

Types of penalties for copyright infringement:

  • Monetary damages
  • Criminal Prosecution
  • Academic Penalties
  • Professional Penalties

For more complete information on copyright enforcement refer to the Copyright Office website.

Commitment to Equal Access and Equal Opportunity

Santa Fe College is committed to an environment that embraces diversity, respects the rights of all individuals, is open and accessible, and is free of harassment and discrimination. For more information, visit or contact

SACSCOC Accreditation Statement

Santa Fe College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). For more information, visit