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Copyright & Publishing for Graduate Students: Copyright & Fair Use

This guide is intended to help graduate students explore and develop a better understanding of various scholarly communication issues, including copyright and fair use, retention of author rights, Open Access publishing, and Creative Commons licensing.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a bundle of rights:

  • The right to reproduce the work
  • The right to distribute the work
  • The right to prepare derivative works
  • The right to perform the work
  • The right to display the work
  • The right to license any of the above to third parties

Requirements for copyright protection:

  • Original work with at least a small amount of creativity
  • Fixed in a tangible medium of expression

 Copyright protects:

  • Writing
  • Music
  • Visual art
  • Film
  • Choreography
  • Architectural works

Copyright exists from the moment it is created until 70 years after the death of the creator.

Exceptions--What is not Protected by Copyright

Not everything is eligible for copyright protection.  These are not protected by copyrght: 

  • ideas
  • facts
  • data

Copyright Resources

What is Fair Use?

Fair Use refers to the section of copyright law (Section 107 of Title 17 of the U.S. Code) that limits the right of creators to control how their work is used.  Another way to look at it is to say that it protects the rights of creators who want to incorporate other people’s copyrighted material into their work. 

Fair use is a limit on copyright that allows a writer/creator to use someone else’s work to make a new point or idea.

The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, notes, or minutes of audio or video that may safely be taken without permission.

Section 107 specifies four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

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

You are expected to consider all four factors in assessing whether the use of a copyrighted work is "fair". 

Fair Use Resources

Fair Use Best Practices Statements