Copyright and fair use are confusing subjects. The issues can be obscure, vague or puzzling. Many people think that if something is available on the Internet, not used in order to make money, or out of print, then it's OK to use it any way they want to. On the other hand, sometimes people think that they can't use copyrighted work at all without permission. Neither view is correct. However, an increasing number of people want to provide others with the right to use their own work without charge or requiring permission. This page offers a number of resources and explanations to help you understand what copyright and fair use are all about and when it's OK to use material.
NOTE: Many resources on copyright and fair use will be found at the Law Library. Be sure to check Morris (the Law Library catalog).
What are the accepted standards for fair use -- are there any? What's acceptable support for teaching? To help people answer such questions, the Center for Social Media has worked with various groups to develop codes of "best practices" in fair use. The code for libraries actually has very broad value, and the website linked above presents the information very clearly, with FAQs for students, faculty and librarians, videos, and other explanations.
One of the best resources for understanding copyright and fair use in an academic setting. Especially useful are the special sections for faculty & staff and for students. There are also checklists, decision trees, documents on copyright duration and public domain, and more.
Reclaiming fair use: how to put balance back in copyright. Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.
Law Library KF3020 .A944X 2011
An excellent and very thorough source of information and explanations about copyright and fair use. See especially its Copyright Overview, drawn from NOLO, a top resource for legal information in plain English (written by lawyers!). The Stanford site includes discussions about getting permissions, information on actual legal cases, and various charts and other tools.
Information on copyright basics, registration, fees, forms, law, and much else.
Be aware that, depending on the circumstances and severity of the case, failure to attribute sources (or to quote or paraphrase properly) sometimes constitutes plagiarism, which is a serious violation of university standards. (Using other people's papers is a hands-down offense.) So whenever possible, attribute your sources of information, quotations, images, videos, and sound clips. That goes for works in the public domain or under copyleft, as well as fair use. Remember, attributing work is not the same thing as exercising fair use. See the Writing Center's discussion on when to cite sources.
A portal with links to various websites on copyright, fair use, etc.
The copyright book: a practical guide. William S. Strong. 5th ed. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999.
SML, Reference KF2994 S75X 1999
The CCC provides an online system for obtaining the right to re-print materials, such as articles for use in a coursepack.
Copyright Watch collects and monitors copyright laws from all over the world. It aims to be "a user-friendly resource of national copyright laws to help citizens of the world undertake comparative research."
A portal providing real world, practical and relevant copyright information for anyone navigating the net.
"The Cathedral and the Bazaar" by Eric S. Raymond
The seminal 1998 article on open source software, in the version published by First Monday (one of the most important e-journals about digital society).
"Commodification of Culture Harms Creators" by Howard Besser
Article prepared for the American Library Association (October 2001)
Creative Commons is an organization that aims to increase the sum of raw source material online, make access to that material cheaper and easier, and build an "intellectual property conservancy." It provides various standardized copyleft licenses, now used around the world.
This resource provides information to activists, artists, scholars, and anyone else who has questions about "IP" (intellectual property) law. Its basic purpose is to support fair use and other free expression safeguards within the law.
Free Art License (License Art Libre)
The Free Art License grants the right to freely copy, distribute, and transform creative works without infringing the author's rights.
Programmers developing free, open source software have been at the forefront of copyleft license creation, allowing others to copy, modify and redistribute software code. There is a wide variety of software licenses; the most popular are the GNU and the BSD licenses.
Based at the Duke University Law School, the CSPD's mission is "to promote research and scholarship on the contributions of the public domain to speech, culture, science and innovation, to promote debate about the balance needed in our intellectual property system and to translate academic research into public policy solutions."
A public-interest advocacy organization dedicated to fortifying and defending a vibrant information commons.
The mission of QuestionCopyright.org is "to provide advocacy and practical education to help cultural producers embrace open distribution."
Practical examples of uses that generally meet "fair use" guidelines, and uses that don't. From Nolo: Law for All.
Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software. By Sam Williams. Sebastopol, Calif.: O'Reilly, 2002.
Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. By Lawrence Lessig. New York: Penguin Press, 2004.
The Power of Open. [Collects stories of people using Creative Commons licenses.]
The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. By James Boyle. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008. [The link downloads the PDF; you can also read it online here.]
Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own. By David Bollier. New York: The New Press, 2009.