If you need to copy, distribute, perform and adapt works under copyright protection, copyright law requires you to get permissions from the copyright holder with a few exceptions including Fair Use and exemptions for classroom teaching. Also, citing the source is always an ethic requirement for using other people's work (see Citing Sources guide).
Here is the workflow to determine if you need to request permission from copyright holders.
(See Use for Teaching tab if you need to reuse materials in your classroom or online courses.)
Each step in the workflow is explained in the Boxes below.
Many creators/authors choose to make their work freely available to use through open access licenses. A common means to do this is through a Creative Commons License (e.g. PLOSOne artilce CC license shown below ) . Publishers may provide options of their customized license too (e.g. ACS AuhorChoice license shown below) .
Locate these licenses via the links with the articles and examine the terms carefully before using an open access work. Ensure you follow the terms.
As an example, the comparison below demonstrate the difference among various types of Creative Commons License.
Publisher customized license may include more restrictions. For example, the ACS AuhorChoice license prohibits "The inclusion or incorporation of article content in other works or services (other than normal quotations with an appropriate citation) that is then available for sale or licensing, for a fee;" Read the license carefully before you use the material with customized license.
Last, the license may specify how the attribution should be specified. (e.g.Best Practices for Attribution from Creative Commons )
If NO specific licenses and/or public domain notices are found with the work, it is safer to assume that the work is still under copyright protection, even without the "©" copyright disclaimer, unless the work was registered or published in the U.S. before 1923 (i.e. in public domain).
To identify Copyright Owner,
Fair use allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission for purposes such as criticism, parody, news reporting, research and scholarship, and teaching.
However, using it for educational purpose is not equal to automatic qualification as fair use.
U.S. Copyright Law set forth four factors that all need to be considered when qualifying a fair use.
|Factors||Weighing in favor of fair use||Weighing against fair use|
|Purpose & Character of Use||
Educational, non-profit, and personal uses
Transformative (resulting in an entirely new work or using for a new and different purpose)
|Commercial use (but not automatically defeat a fair use claim)|
|Nature of Copyrighted work||
Published works and factual
Highly creative works
|Amount and Substantiality||Less proportion (not just quantity but also qualitatively assess, i.e. if being the "heart of the work")||More proportion (no absolute limits outlined in the law)|
|Effect Upon the Potential Market||
No economic harm to the copyright owner
No negative impact on potential market and potential value of the work
|Resulting in economic harm or effecting on potential market and value of the work|
All four factors need to be considered together in balance. It's not all or nothing. Even if a use contains all elements in favor, it may still not qualified as fair use. See more discussion and examples about the four factors in the resources listed in the box Determining Fair Use on the right side.
The final answer to the justification eventually depends upon the jurisdiction if the case escalates to a legal case. Therefore, you always need to gauge the risk level that you are comfortable to take. Here are some general examples of risk levels (From:Teaching Our Faculty: Developing Copyright and Scholarly Communication Outreach Programs,” by J. Duncan, S. K. Clement, and B. Rozum, 2013, in S. Davis-Kahl and M. K. Hensley (Eds.), Common ground at the nexus of information literacy and scholarly communication).
For more discussion and examples in teaching and research context, please see Chapter 4 of the IP Handbook linked below.
Obtaining permission from copyright holders is also called licensing. By giving you the permission to use, the copyright owner grants you a license to use their work in a specific manner. What's not granted to you is the copyright to the work.
Depending on the copyright holders' policies and preference, the permission can be free or with a fee.
To request for permission, make sure that your request includes:
Options for requesting permissions:
Regardless of how you obtained the permission to reuse copyrighted materials, be sure to keep a copy of all permissions and license agreements. Even if you used Fair Use justification, you need to document the fair use determination process.
Having a written record can be invaluable if questions or disputes should occur in the future. Demonstrating the legal rights to use others' work and the effort you made to obtain them is to your best interests.
In the cases that you may never get a response from the copyright holder and/or you may never even be able to identify who they are or how to contact them, it can be difficult to know how to proceed. Unfortunately, no matter how diligently you have tried to get permission, these efforts cannot completely eliminate the risk of infringement should you proceed to use the work. See Columbia's Copyright Advisory Office 's list of Possible Solutions for when you find yourself in this all-too-common situation.
The license or permission you obtained often contains the direction on how to give attribution to the original work. Follow those instructions. If there is no directions from the license, make sure you include the title, author, source (URL or hyper link), and the license (with a link to the license terms preferably). Here are a few examples on how the attribution can be done.
"[citation of the work], © 1990 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reprinted by permission of the MIT Press."
"Adapted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd: [JOURNAL NAME] (reference citation), copyright (year of publication)"
"This work, "90fied", is a derivative of "Creative Commons 10th Birthday Celebration San Francisco" by tvol, used under CC BY. "90fied" is licensed under CC BY by [Your name here]."
For those works that are difficult to identify copyright owners, these additional resources may be helpful.