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Copyright & Open Licensing Resources

This guide includes copyright resources that were originally compiled by Tucky Taylor and Andrea Wright for the PASCAL Copyright & Open Access Workshop.

Please note that PASCAL cannot provide legal advice. The information and resources provided below are intended to assist members in evaluating the use of copyrighted materials; however, copyright decisions are ultimately made at the institutional level.

Information & Resources

Copyright is protection established by U.S. Law (Title 17, U.S. Code) that provides authors of "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression," exclusive rights to how their work is used.  These works can include broad categories of literary works, musical works, dramatic works, pantomimes and choreographic works, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, sounds recordings, and architectural works.  Copyright protection take effect immediately once a work has been fixed in a tangible form, registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not necessary.  Copyright protection is available for both published and unpublished works.

Copyright provides the author with exclusive rights to:

  • reproduce the work
  • create derivatives based on the work (including translations and adaptations)
  • distribute copies of the work
  • publicly perform the work
  • publicly display the work

What is not protected by copyright:

  • works not fixed in a tangible form
  • facts (basic math, recipes, alphabets, names, titles)
  • ideas, procedures, concepts, explanations, or methods
  • works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship (standard calendars, height and weight charts, lists and tables)
  • Works produced by the U.S. Government
  • Works in the Public Domain

In most cases, library services that involve copying or other reproduction of copyrighted resources are dependent on at least one of five conditions.  Use is permitted because:

  • The work is in the public domain
  • the copyright holder has given permission for the use
  • there is a license agreement that permits use
  • the use is allowed under Section 108: Limitations on Exclusive Rights: Reproduction by Libraries and Archives
  • the use is allowed under Section 107: Limitations on Exclusive Rights: Fair Use

Section 108 of U.S. Copyright Law provides libraries and archives specific exemptions to the exclusive rights of copyright owners.  These exemptions complement fair use in copyright law's intent to maintain the balance of the private interests of copyright owners with the public's interest in advancing the "progress of science and the useful arts".  They assure in some measure that copyright-protected information is accessible to individuals for private study.


Section 108: Limitations on Exclusive Rights: Reproduction by Libraries and Archives permits libraries and archives to reproduce work if it is for "private study, scholarship , or research".

Public Domain

"Public Domain" refers to content that is not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws.  Works in the public domain may be freely copied, shared, altered, or republished, without obtaining permission from or compensating the copyright holder.  In the United States, works published before 1977 enter the public domain after 96 years, meaning that as of January 1st, 2022, works published in 1926 entered public domain.  Works published after 1977 enter public domain 70 years after the death of the last surviving author.

For more information please visit the links below.

Fair Use Doctrine

The Fair Use Doctrine provides for limited use of copyrighted materials for educational and research purposes without permission from the owners.  It is not a blanket exemption.  Instead, each proposed use must be analyzed under a four-part test.

"Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use" (Section 107) offers a set of factors to consider when using copyrighted work for teaching or research.  Specifically the factors 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 copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

This definition is taken from the ALA Copyright for Librarians: Fair Use Resource Guide.

For more information please visit the links below.

Below are links to Best Practices for Fair Use in several different instances that may be helpful in the course of your work.  You can find Best Practices documentation for many other subject areas such as poetry, journalism, online videos, and visual arts at the Center for Media & Social Justice Codes of Best Practices web page.

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