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The purpose of copyright laws are not to limit students' access to reference material, but to protect the authors and creators behind them. Consider the amount of time authors spend collecting data, writing, rewriting, and marketing their work. Like anybody in business, they want to be compensated fairly for the work they've done. As a result, non-profit agencies and government organizations have created laws to protect the authors, while allowing educational institutions, businesses, and the general public limited access to published text for research or educational purposes.
The amount of photocopying allowed, and the proper referencing of published works, are outlined in detail on the website of the United States Copyright Office, or at the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (CANCOPY).
If you're a student attending an online university or college, or a traditional university or college, check with the establishment's student resource manual. Oftentimes, there are handbooks with information on copyright laws and other college policies. If in doubt, contact a representative working at a copyright office, or (if possible) try to contact the author of the work yourself. The only way to be absolutely sure you're not infringing on copyright laws is to get expressed written permission from the author.
Chances are that university or college you're enrolled in have signed a licensing agreement with the copyright office so that you don't have to obtain permission every time you make a photocopy. Your university should be well versed in this, so don't be afraid to ask if you're not sure.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|