The United States Copyright office provides a description of the Copyright Law (Title 17 of the United States Code) in their Circular 1. The Copyright Office has posted a summary of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The durations of copyrights as set by the Sonny Bono Term Extension Act have been posted in a table prepared by Laura N. Gasaway, Director of the Law Library and Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina.
Section 110 of the Copyright Law contains exemptions that allow nonprofit education institutions some limited rights to use copyrighted materials in face-to-face classroom settings and also some more restricted rights to transmit some types of copyrights works.
NEW - The "Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act", commonly referred to as the TEACH Act completely revises Section 110(2) of the Copyright Law to address use of copyrighted material for distance education. The ALA and the University of Texas have posted information regarding this important new legislation.
Section 107 of the Copyright Law allows for the use of copyrighted works without the permission of the copyright owner(s) for scholarly research, educational, and other purposes.
In an attempt to aid in understanding and following "Fair Use" law, the University of Texas' Intellectual Property Office has posted Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials and the Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis' Copyright Management Center has posted a Checklist for Fair Use.