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In an academic setting, violating copyright is called plagiarism.

Plagiarism is intentionally presenting the work of another as one's own without proper acknowledgement of the source, quoting from a source without citation, using facts, figures, graphs, charts or information without acknowledgement of the source.

More examples of plagiarism are:

  1. Purchasing a term paper online
  2. Using a former student's paper as your own
  3. Failing to cite from a work even though you didn't directly quote from it
Resources for Citing

To avoid plagiarising, always give proper recognition to the creator of the work.

  • Diana Hacker Research and Documentation
    Provides guidelines along with examples by style for citing within your paper, creating your bibliography, and formatting your paper.
  • The Purdue Online Writing Lab
    Provides citation style guides, tips on avoiding plagiarism, and help with letter and resume writing
  • Citing Sources
    Documentation Guidelines for citing sources and avoiding plagiarism from Duke University Libraries
Copyright in a Nutshell

Copyright laws grant creators exclusive rights to how their creation is used. A work is protected from the "...time the work is created in a fixed form" . Some examples are books, maps, charts, prints, photographs, music, drama, paintings, drawings, sculpture, movies, computer programs, records and tapes, dance, achitecture, and characters. (Copyright Basics, 2008, p.1- 3), (Samuels, 2000)

Faculty members who supply photocopied materials to be placed on temporary reserve are advised that it is their responsibility to obtain permission from the copyright holder.
Reserve Materials -- Macon
Reserve Materials -- Savannah

For more information regarding copyright, visit the official website for the U.S. Copyright Office at


Samuels, E. (2000). The illustrated story of copyright. New York: St. Martin's Press.

U.S. Copyright Office. (2008). Copyright Basics. Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Fair Use Guidelines

The Copyright Act gives copyright holders the exclusive right to reproduce works for a limited time period. Fair use is a limitation on this right. Fair use allows people other than the copyright owner to copy part or, in some circumstances, all of a copyrighted work, even where the copyright holder has not given permission or objects.

Whether a use is fair will depend on the specific facts of the use. Note that attribution has little to do with fair use; unlike plagiarism, copyright infringement (or non-infringement) doesn't depend on whether you give credit to the source from which you copied. Fair use is decided by courts on a case-by-case basis after balancing the four factors listed in section 107 of the Copyright Act. Those factors are:

  1. The purpose and character of the use of copyrighted work
    • Transformative quality - Is the new work the same as the copyrighted work, or have you transformed the original work, using it in a new and different way?
    • Commercial or noncommercial - Will you make money from the new work, or is it intended for nonprofit, educational, or personal purposes? Commercial uses can still be fair uses, but courts are more likely to find fair use where the use is for noncommercial purposes.
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
    A particular use is more likely to be considered fair when the copied work is factual rather than creative.
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
    How much of the copyrighted work did you use in the new work? Copying nearly all of the original work, or copying its "heart," may weigh against fair use. But "how much is too much" depends on the purpose of the second use. Parodies, for example, may need to make extensive use of an original work to get the point across.
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work
    This factor applies even if the original is given away for free. If you use the copied work in a way that substitutes for the original in the market, that will weigh against fair use. Uses of copyrighted material that serve a different audience or purpose are more likely to be considered fair.

These factors are guidelines, and they are not exclusive. As a general matter, courts are often interested in whether or not the individual making use of a work has acted in good faith.

Electronic Resources

Use of the electronic resources provided to Mercer University Libraries is governed by license agreements. Each publisher's license agreement outlines specific terms and conditions under which the resources may be used. Although each license is unique, common restrictions found in licenses for electronic resources include the following:

  • The content may be used only for non-commercial, educational or research purposes.
  • Users may print or electronically save a single copy of limited portions of a resource for individual and collaborative scholarship, however, systematic downloading and/or redistribution to non-subscribers is prohibited.
  • Individuals who are not affiliated with the University may not use the content, or may use the content only when physically present in the Libraries. Affiliates are currently enrolled students, faculty and staff of Mercer. Faculty include preceptors who have faculty appointments. Alumni are not included at this time.
  • Authorized Users may use a reasonable portion of the Licensed Materials in the preparation of course packs or other educational materials, including print-outs, e-reserves and access-controlled websites, with all rights notices duly presented.

Systematic downloading of electronic journal articles or database content is a violation of library contracts and US Copyright laws. Users who violate this policy are at risk having their library access suspended and access to the product blocked for all Mercer users on all campuses.

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