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Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) to copyright holders. Among these protected rights is the right to distribute copies of their works.
In the context of education, "distributing" will be defined as reproducing material in any way and making it available to others. This includes producing print copies of copyrighted material and handing the copies out, converting print copyrighted material into electronic format and posting it on courseware or a web site, or downloading material from a web site or electronic journal articles and posting it to courseware or a web site.
Original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.
In the context of education, two exceptions to copyright protection are some U. S. governments and works in the public domain.
Under Fair Use Guidelines of the US Copyright Law, an author may make limited use of another author's work without asking permission. However, Fair Use is open to interpretation. It is intended to support teaching, research, and scholarship, but educational purpose alone does not make every use of a work fair. It is always important to analyze use a particular work against the following four factors of Fair Use.
Distributing multiple copies of different works that could substitute for purchased course materials, the same works from semester to semester, or the same material for several different courses.