Answered By: Woodruff Library Reference
Last Updated: Feb 19, 2015     Views: 55

When using materials created by others, consider the following:

  • Is the material you'd like to use protected  by copyright?

The material you want to use may no longer be protected by copyright and may be in the public domain. The current copyright term is life of the author plus 70 years. Upon the expiration of that term, the work enters the public domain is freely available for use by anyone for any purpose. Generally, any material published in the United States prior to 1923 or published in a foreign country prior to 1909 is in the public domain and can be used without permission.

Additionally, some materials are never protected by copyright, such as those created by the U.S. federal government. If the material is created by a federal government employee, in their official capacity, then it automatically enters the public domain upon creation.

  • Do any copyright exceptions apply to your use of the material?

If your use falls within one of the copyright exceptions, you do not need to seek permission from the copyright owner. Fair use is the most flexible exception and can be applied in any setting. Additional exceptions typically used in an educational setting include classroom performance & display (for face-to-face instruction) and the TEACH Act (for virtual instruction).

  • Do you need to ask for permission from the copyright owner?

If your use does not fall under one of the above exceptions, and the material is not in the public domain, then you need to request permission for your use from the copryight owner. For more information on how to obtain permission, please see our permissions help page.


Additional instances when you can use a work without permission:

  • When you create the work (and have retained the rights to republish; see our Author's Rights page for more information)
  • When the work is covered by Emory's library licenses:

Emory's licenses for electronic resources, databases, eJournals and eBooks, supersede copyright law. For example, some of these licenses allow for the copying of material to Reserves or Blackboard, while others only allow linking to the material. Since the license terms vary, always link to articles in the libraries' electronic resources.

When you find an article through one of the libraries' electronic resources, make sure to find what the database or journal refers to as the stable, persistent, or DOI link. This link will always remain the same, so even if the journal or database provider moves their content, you will always be able to access that particular article with that link.

  • When a Creative Commons license permits the use:

Creative Commons enables authors and creators to allow others to make certain uses of their work without asking for permission. The Creative Commons licenses are based on the idea that creators can keep some of their rights while choosing to share the rest.

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