Skip to Main Content

Course & Subject Guides

Copyright Basics

This guide will give you an overview of copyright in the United States. It will not supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of the Office of University Counsel.

Can I use it?

The Copyright Act contains a number of important exemptions to the exclusive rights of copyright owners. The University Library System has also negotiated licensees that allow you to use copyrighted work in teaching and scholarship at Pitt. We cover this and more in the Can I use it? section of the Copyright and Intellectual Property Toolkit. Some of the things you can do with copyrighted material include but are not limited to:    

  • Linking to library resources. The library negotiates licenses to online content that allow for use by students, staff, and faculty of the University. Linking to library content in Canvas allows students to access materials without creating a new copy.
  • Linking to an image or public website.  While you should still cite and give attribution to the owner of the website, it is not usually required to request permission to link to a publicly available website as it does not make a copy of that website.
  • Make a Fair Use of copyrighted material. The Doctrine of Fair Use allows users of copyrighted works to reproduce and reuse copyrighted works in ways that are considered fair--such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. For more information, see the Fair Use section of the Copyright and Intellectual Property Toolkit
  • Request permissions from the copyright owner. When your work does not fall under Fair Use, or when you need special permissions for a particular use, you can always request permission from the holder of copyright. 

Your use may also fall under exceptions and limitations of copyright law, like section 108 for libraries, Section 110 for face-to-face education, or the 110(2) T.E.A.C.H. Act for online education.