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Boatwright Memorial Library

Seeking Copyright Permissions

Copyright Law Defined

Copyright law, as defined in 17 U.S.C. § 102, protects "original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression" for a limited period. Copyright protection includes, for instance, the legal right to publish and sell literary, artistic, or musical work, and copyright protects authors, publishers and producers, and the public.  Copyright applies both to traditional media (books, records, etc.) and to digital media (electronic journals, web sites, etc.). Copyright protects the following eight categories of works:

  1. literary works
  2. musical works
  3. dramatic works
  4. pantomimes and choreographic works
  5. pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  6. motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  7. sound recordings
  8. architectural works

Ownership of a copyrighted work includes the right to control the use of that work. Use of such work by others during the term of the copyright requires either permission from the author or reliance on the doctrine of fair use. Failure to do one or the other will expose the user to a claim of copyright infringement for which the law provides remedies including payment of money damages to the copyright owner.

Connect to the U.S. Copyright Office website for further details.

Question about copyright and the public domain?  Connect to this explanatory chart.


The purpose of this guide is to provide faculty, staff, and students at the University of Richmond with an understanding of copyright law and fair use.

Copyright balances the rights of creators with the rights of the public to use a work without permission or payment. Under copyright, authors have the right to control the use of their work, subject to the exceptions permitted under the law. While copyright issues can be complex, everyone needs to understand the basics. Failure to comply with copyright law can lead to substantial legal penalties for both you and the university.

PLEASE NOTE: Nothing on these pages should be construed as legal advice.

Exceptions - Virtual Instruction

Virtual instruction takes place when a course is taught entirely online, or when components of a face-to-face course are taught in an online environment such as Blackboard or other course management system. Virtual instruction includes digitally transmitting class materials to students, which is authorized under the TEACH Act provision of copyright law, but first there are requirements for instructors, technology, and course materials that must be met.

TEACH Act requirements for:

Copyrighted materials used in face-to-face instruction include:

  • Music
  • Printed Text
  • Visual Images
  • Film and Video

Exceptions - Face to Face Instruction

Face-to-face instruction typically takes place in a traditional classroom, where the instructor and the students of a nonprofit educational institution are engaged in teaching and learning at the same time. In this setting all performances and displays of a copyrighted work are allowed for instructional purposes.


  1. All materials must be legally acquired.
  2. Teaching activities must take place in a classroom or a similar place devoted to instruction.
  3. Teaching and learning must be going on simultaneously.

If the use falls outside the classroom experience, and does not fit the definitiion of virtual instruction, then the Fair Use Analysis should be applied. Permission is required if the use is not fair use and the education exceptions do not apply.

Copyrighted materials used in face-to-face instruction include:

  • Music
  • Printed Text
  • Visual Images
  • Film and Video