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What Can I Use?

Students determine what can be used through copyright permissions and status.

Copyright is protection provided by law (17, U.S. Code §102) to the authors/creators of "original works of authorship," expressed in any tangible medium of expression.

This protection is available for original works from the moment they are created in a tangible medium, and it applies whether they are published, unpublished, or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

However, there are exceptions to copyright that allow works to be used for educational purposes. Such exceptions are benefits for all.

"Copyright enables us and it throws stumbling blocks in our paths. If you take the time to learn a little bit about it, you can exploit its benefits and avoid its pitfalls."
Photo of Georgia K. Harper
Georgia K. Harper, Author of The Copyright Crash Course

Below is a chart intended to help you determine the copyright status of your work and whether permission is needed. Please consult the pages on the left for more information.

Can I Use It?
Is the work covered by copyright?
↓Yes
Is the work eligible for © protection? → No
Is the work in the public domain? →Yes
Make
Legal
Use!
Is your intended use alredy permitted?
↓No
Is there a © exemption or exception for your use?
Is there a Library subscription for use?
Is the work available under a Creative Commons license or other open license? →Yes
Is your intended use fair use?
↓No
Have you seriously examined all four factors and other relevant issues, and concluded taht your use seems likely to be fair? →Yes
Seek permission If permission is denied, consider alternatives:
  • Revise planned use or use different work
  • Buy copies as needed
  • Seek further legal advice
  • A flowchart depicting whether or not a work is cover by copyright and is eligible for use.
    Visit the new library research guide for more information on copyright.