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Copyright and Fair Use

Topic Guide that provides information on copyright and fair use, as it pertains to students, faculty, also in relation to Special Collections, DigitalCommons and Course Reserves

Purpose of this Guide

This guide is designed to help you determine whether and how you may use the work of others. This landing page covers essential information and visit the side navigation for special applications. 

This guide is for informational purposes only and does not purport to provide legal advice.

Copyright and Fair Use

Copyright is a legal term describing ownership of control of the rights to the use and distribution of certain works of creative expression, including books, video, motion pictures, musical compositions and computer programs. 

Fair use is an exception to copyright that permits the limited use of copyrighted material without having to first acquire permission from the copyright holder. 

Because fair use is a guideline designed to be flexible to accommodate a variety of uses it is up to the user to determine whether their intended use is defensible. 

There is a variety of checklists and resources to help you in making this determination.

Further Copyright and Fair Use Resources

If you wish to take a deep dive, many great resources are listed below.

How do I Obtain Permissions?

To request copyright permissions for use, you must contact the copyright owner or the owner’s authorized agent. You should logically begin your search for the copyright owner by directly contacting the author or publisher. 

Keep in mind that copyright owners have wide discretion when responding to your request for permission, and may allow you to use the work on condition of paying a fee or deny your request altogether. For most common uses of materials for educational and research purposes, you often will find that copyright owners will be cooperative and will understand your needs.

Resources below will provide guidance for obtaining permissions.

Getting Permissions for Film

The entities listed below can be contacted for obtaining public performance licensing rights to numerous non-theatrical entities including U.S. colleges and universities. 

Getting Permissions for Music

If you wish to perform a musical work, you can contact the first entities listed below (Tresona, ASCAP, BMI or SESAC) to secure a license for your use. If you wish to synchronize music with visual images or distribute a musical composition that has been created by someone else, contact the Harry Fox agency for licensing. These entities are linked below.