Copyright Toolkit
Table of Contents

What is Copyright?
Is it in the Public Domain?
Is my use a Fair Use?
What if I’m a Teacher?
How Do I obtain Permission?
What about Libraries, Archives and Museums?
Creators & Scholarship


What is Copyright?

Copyright: A form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for “original works of authorship”, including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations. “Copyright” literally means the right to copy but has come to mean that body of exclusive rights granted by law to copyright owners for protection of their work. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, title, principle, or discovery. Similarly, names, titles, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, coloring, and listings of contents or ingredients are not subject to copyright.

Definition from the U.S. Copyright Office https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/definitions.html

  • Association of Research Libraries Copyright Timeline: A History of Copyright in the United States. A historical overview of US copyright acts, treaties, guidelines, and court cases from 1787 to 2014. Establishes how US Copyright law has been shaped over time. http://www.arl.org/focus-areas/copyright-ip/2486-copyright-timeline
  • Copyright Law of the United States and Related Laws Contained in Tıtle 17 of the United States Code. The text of US Copyright law that includes the Copyright Act of 1976 and everything that has come after. This can be read online or downloaded as a PDF.  https://www.copyright.gov/title17/
  • 2015 DMCA Exemptions. A final ruling from the Librarian of Congress on the Exemption to Prohibition on Circumvention of Copyright Protection Systems for Access Control Technologies. In other words for circumventing Digital Rights Management (DRM) for otherwise legal uses of copyrighted materials. https://copyright.gov/1201/2015/fedreg-publicinspectionFR.pdf

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Is it in the Public Domain?

Self-portrait of a female Celebes crested macaque (Macaca nigra) in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, who had picked up photographer David Slater’s camera and photographed herself with it. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36464057

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Is my use a Fair Use?

By Óðinn (CC-BY-SA) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fair_use_logo.svg

Section 107 · Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism,comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—
(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 copy-righted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copy-righted work.
The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.
From U.S. Copyright Law Title 17: https://www.copyright.gov/title17/title17.pdf
  • Fair Use Evaluator. Will help you learn about fair use and make a fair use evaluation with a PDF summary for documentation of fair use reasoning. http://librarycopyright.net/resources/fairuse/index.php
  • Fair Use Checklist. This checklist was created by Kenneth D. Crews (formerly of Columbia University) and Dwayne K. Buttler (University of Louisville). It allows someone to make a fair use analysis as well and create a document of the decision. https://copyright.columbia.edu/basics/fair-use/fair-use-checklist.html
  • College Art Association (CAA) Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts. This document describes best practices for visual arts professionals in fair use of copyrighted materials. http://www.collegeart.org/programs/caa-fair-use/
  • Visual Resources Association (VRA) Statement on the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study This statement is a best practices document for image management professionals who use images in educational spaces. The statement describes 6 uses of images that fall within Fair Use. http://vraweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/VRA_FairUse_Statement_Pages_Links.pdf
  • Code of Best Practices for Online Video. These guidelines give best practices for fair use as it pertains to online video. http://cmsimpact.org/code/code-best-practices-fair-use-online-video/

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Raphael, Scuola di Atene (The School of Athens), 1509-1511

What if I’m a Teacher?

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How do I obtain Permission?

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Historic Photograph File of National Archives Events and Personnel. Left to Right: Elizabeth Hamer, Margaret (Peggy) Mangum, and Elizabeth Bukowsky encase bound volumes in Lucite containers aboard the Freedom Train. 1948. National Archives Identifier: 12167218 Local Identifier: 64-NA-1-36

What about Libraries, Archives and Museums?

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Creators & Scholarship

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