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Copyright & Fair Use

A clearinghouse of copyright related information and resources including Fair Use, Public Domain, Getting Copyright Permission, and Creative Commons Licensing

Copyright & Educators

Librarians can provide information and resources to help you navigate copyright related questions, but we do not give legal advice, as we are not lawyers. If you have specific legal questions pertaining to copyright and intellectual property, please contact the legal offices of your college.

Copyright protection is outlined in Title 17 of the U.S. Code. There are several exceptions to copyright law, especially relevant to educators:

  • The Classroom Use Exemption” (Limitations on exclusive rights: Exemption of certain performances and displays), Title 17, Section 110 of the U.S. Code
  • The TEACH Act (Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act, 2002)
  • Fair Use (see below)

7C Copyright Resources:

Fair Use

Fair use is outlined in Title 17, Section 107 of the U.S. code.

Copyright law describes 4 factors to aid in determining whether it is fair to use a work that is protected by copyright for the purpose of commentary or criticism. Keep in mind that weighing these factors is often very subjective and contextual. These 4 factors are:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

If you want to use a work in your course, publication, thesis, or dissertation it is a good idea to complete a Fair Use Analysis Checklist and keep a record of it in case you ever need to show you did the due diligence necessary to determine if your use falls under fair use.

Fair Use Resources:

Public Domain

Public domain refers to creative works that are not protected by copyright and so can be freely used by anyone. Works fall under the public domain through:

  • Expiration of copyright
  • Failure to renew copyright
  • Dedication: the owner deliberately places it in the public domain.

Public Domain resources:

Getting Permission from Copyright Holders

Permission to use copyrighted material must be obtained when the use is not covered by copyright law, fair use, or educational exceptions. Permissions should be in writing and from the copyright holder. Retain copies of all of correspondences.

Retaining Your Copyrights

Publishers don’t always make rights clear to authors. As an author, you have the ability to:

  • Negotiate with publishers to retain explicit ownership of your content
  • Transfer, via an author addendum, to the publisher only those rights needed for publication
  • Specify other rights of particular value to you or your home institution
  • Consider publishing with an organization that will facilitate the widest dissemination of your work in order to help you fulfill your personal and professional goals as a scholar

Sometimes external funders will require you to make your publications freely available. Even if you don’t have a funding mandate to do so, there are benefits to placing a copy of your publication in an institutional or disciplinary repository. Making research as widely accessible as possible will ensure that others can benefit and build on your work, especially those who don’t have access to expensive subscription databases.

Resources for negotiating your rights with publishers:

Creative Commons Licenses

Creative Commons (CC) is both a nonprofit organization, and a movement in response to expanding copyright protections. Using Creative Commons Licenses, artists and creators can proactively make their work available for public use, while specifying the conditions under which they are used now and in the future.

CC Licenses are copyright licenses, and depend on copyright laws to work. CC is designed to remove some of the barriers that copyright law puts in motion. If a CC license is used, it is not necessary to get permission or to make an educated guess if fair use is acceptable. The license lays it all out.

7 Types of CC Licenses
Creative Commons - BY SA
Attribution CC BY
This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.
Creative Commons - BY SA
Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.
Creative Commons - BY ND
Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND
This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.
Creative Commons - BY NC
Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.
Creative Commons - BY NC SA
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.
Creative Commons - EU
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND
This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.
Creative Commons - Some rights reserved
The CC0 tool
This allows licensors to waive all rights and place a work directly into the public domain.
Creative Commons Resources
Get Help with Copyright & Fair Use
Jennifer Beamer
Scholarly Communications Coordinator
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