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Copyright and Intellectual Property Toolkit

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

How to use this guide

This guide is a toolkit for answering questions about copyright and intellectual property. 

For basic definitions of terms used in the field of copyright, click the "Definitions" tab above. 

If you have a question about using a particular item in your work, please click on the "Can I Use It?" tab above. This section of the toolkit contains information about fair use, public domain, and licenses.

The University of Pittsburgh has its own policies about copyright ownership for its employees. For information about these policies, click the "Pitt Policies" tab. 

The information and resources found in this guide are not meant to offer legal advice but rather to guide and inform as you investigate copyright and other intellectual property concerns. Only a lawyer knowledgeable about copyright and intellectual property issues can provide you with legal advice.

How the library can help with copyright - and how we can't

If you ask a librarian to help you with copyright and the librarian seems aloof, it's not because we don't want to help you.

The truth is that copyright is complex and involves legal documents, and librarians must be very careful to not provide legal advice because we are not lawyers. When it comes to copyright, a librarian can help you understand options available to you and direct you to information resources.  But when it's time to interpret legal copyright status and situations, we'll leave that to you or your attorney.

If you have a question about the limitations of library information service, please feel free to ask.

Scholarly Communication Glossary

Help topics

Libraries often deal with copyright and other intellectual property issues, whether on behalf of their communities (faculty, students, staff, other patrons) or in their day-to-day operations.

copyright symbol

If you have questions about copyright in any of the following areas or activities, we can help. 

  • Using the works of others (such as articles, reports, or books) for a paper or a research project
  • Photocopying articles or book chapters
  • Using materials on course reserves
  • Listening to, playing, or downloading music
  • Using the contents found in databases (which are licensed for use by the Pitt community)
  • Showing films or performing music
  • Reusing images found in library collections, whether in print or online
  • Borrowing materials from other libraries

Have a question about these topics or something else? Get in touch with us by e-mail! 

Copyright and ETDs

Electronic Theses and Dissertations service logo For the latest information on copyright concerns specific to Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs), visit the ETD Copyright Primer. If you have ETD-specific questions, view the ETD Help Page to find contact information for the ETD staff member at your school or to contact a Copyright Specialist at the ULS. 

Copyright and Course Materials

Logo Pitt Teaching CenterThe University Center for Teaching and Learning has developed a number of resources related to copyright and course materials, particularly for material posted in Courseweb or other content management platforms. Contact this office for assistance with copyright and course materials posted online. 

Other resources at Pitt for copyright help

Pitt logoA number of departments within the university play a role in providing information and guidance on copyright and other intellectual property issues at Pitt.

Here's a contact list for some of the major players at the university.




A lot of people have the same questions about copyright. Check the FAQs first to see if your question has been answered! We have FAQs in three areas: a general use FAQ, an educational use FAQ, and a web use FAQ, providing guidance on topics such as copyright, fair use, public domain, public performance, and more.

Credit for this Guide

This guide was originally created by John Barnett, revised and updated by Lauren B. Collister, Jonah McAllister-Erickson, and Paul Turner. Some parts of this guide were borrowed from Christopher Lemery's Patent guide. 

Creative Commons - Attribution iconThis guide and its content are licensed under a Creative Commons - Attribution 4.0 license. You are free to reuse and adapt the content of this guide as long as you give credit to the original creators.