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Course & Subject Guides

Copyright and Intellectual Property Toolkit

Here you can find information, resources, and tools to address copyright issues and concerns in research and teaching.

Guidance on Copyright and the Use of ULS Collections

The University Library System (ULS) encourages the appropriate use of public domain materials and the fair use of copyrighted materials in our collections. This guide is intended to assist you in navigating the use of materials and properly citing them in teaching, research, publication, education, presentation, and other scholarly endeavors.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a set of legal rights held by an author, a filmmaker, a musician, a publisher or other owner for an original and creative work fixed in a tangible medium of expression (an article, a book, a movie, a recording, a website, and more).

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Most nations provide some form of copyright protection for unpublished as well as published works created by authors in their countries.

Copyright owners have exclusive rights. Copyright owners can

  • Reproduce their work (for example, copying, digitizing, or republishing)
  • Prepare works based upon the original (also known as derivative works)
  • Distribute copies of their work to the public (by sale or other transfer of ownership; by rental, lease, or lending)
  • Perform their work publicly (if it’s a literary, musical, dramatic, or choreographed work, or if it’s a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work)
  • Display their work publicly (if it’s a literary, musical, dramatic, or choreographed work, or if it’s a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work)
  • Perform their work publicly through digital audio and/or video transmission (if it’s a sound or video recording).

Copyright owners can also authorize others to make use of these rights.  Copyright protection restricts who can publish, quote, and reproduce work without permission from the copyright holder.

Copyright-Protected Materials and Fair Use

ULS collections may be protected by copyright, trademark, privacy, publicity rights, or other rights and interests not owned by the ULS. The ULS cannot grant or deny permission to use materials protected under copyright. 

The Fair Use doctrine under U.S. Copyright Law may allow you to use copyrighted works for various purposes, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

To determine whether the use of copyrighted works is a fair one, you must consider four factors:

  • 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 (e.g., whether it is factual or creative in nature)
  • 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.

Online resources such as the University Library System’s copyright website, the American Library Association’s Fair Use Evaluator, and the Fair Use Checklist from Columbia University can provide you with guidance on the fair use of copyrighted materials. However, ultimately it is your responsibility to determine whether permission is required for the use of copyrighted items that exceeds fair use.

Reproductions of Copyrighted Materials

The ULS assumes that users are acting in accordance with copyright law when ordering reproductions from the ULS or copying materials with their own equipment (e.g., a digital camera, smart phone, a personal scanner, etc.) and in using that text or image.

Public Domain Materials

A work of authorship is in the “public domain” if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.  Online resources (such as the American Library Association’s Is It Protected by Copyright? tool and the U.S. Copyright Office’s copyright registration database) can provide you with guidance in determining whether something is in the public domain.

The ULS cannot grant or deny permission to use materials in the public domain. You do not need permission to use public domain materials even when reproductions are acquired from the ULS, discovered on a ULS website, or obtained through the use of a personal device (e.g., digital camera, smart phone, etc).

Audio-Visual Materials, Music, Music Scores, and Performance

Audio-visual materials have additional rights involved to protect them. The copyright law makes a distinction between “performing the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works” and “performing the work (in the case of sound recordings) by means of a digital audio transmission.” Because of this, it is not as easy to determine who the rights holder is and whether or not the material has passed into the public domain. You may wish to consult the Music Library Association’s Guide to Copyright for additional information.  Please direct inquiries related to the use of ULS audio-visual materials, music, music scores, and performance to Ask an Archivist.

Copyright and Permission to Publish ULS-Copyrighted Materials

For some materials in ULS collections, especially those found in the Special Collections Department and the Archives Service Center, the ULS is the copyright owner. Written permission must be obtained from the University Library System at the University of Pittsburgh to reproduce or publish images from the ULS collections for which the ULS is the copyright owner.

In order to facilitate the tracking of publications and collect information about the use of collections, all who are requesting usage of material from photographic or manuscript collections held by the archives must indicate as appropriate:

  • The intended usage
  • Title of publications/display/presentation
  • Date of publication/display/presentation
  • Publisher
  • Print run
  • Language(s)

The ULS does not charge a publication fee for the usage of material in our collections. We do, however, charge a reproduction fee to acquire the necessary image(s).



Prepared May 5, 2015