Skip to Main Content

Open Access: Copyright & Fair Use

This is a guide to issues in open access, author rights, copyright, open licensing, and scholarly communication.

Resources about Copyright

What Does Copyright Protect?

According to the Copyright Basics issued by the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright extends to literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works. Copyrightable works include:
  • Literary works
  • Musical works, including any accompanying words
  • Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works

These categories should be viewed broadly.

Copyright Librarian Blog

Loading ...

Copyright and Fair Use

Copyright is a form of protection provided by U.S. Congress to the authors of original works of creativity, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. It constitutes the author rights.

Fair Use is a doctrine of the U.S. copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted works without seeking permission typically for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. When determining whether a use is fair, it is important to take into consideration these four factors:

  1. Purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. Nature of the copyrighted work
  3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

Click here for more information about these factors. A detailed discussion of fair use is available from this site

In the video below, legal experts from the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford University answer questions about fair use.  

Public Domain

A public domain work is a creative work that is not protected by copyright and may be freely used by anyone.  The reasons that the work is not protected include:

  1. The term of copyright for the work has expired, or

  2. The author failed to satisfy statutory formalities to perfect the copyright, or

  3. The work is a work of the U.S. Government.

Copyright experts have put together charts to help people determine if a work is in the public domain:

The first day of every year is known as Public Domain Day because the copyright term of certain works expires and they enter the public domain. 

Resources about Fair Use

Resources about Public Domain