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Copyright Guidance: Shifting Your Course Online

Information for authors and users of copyrighted works.


Purpose Of This Guide

This guide is designed to assist Yale authors and users of copyrighted materials with consideration of practical issues addressed by United States copyright law.  These issues may include, understanding the basics of copyright law, its protections and exceptions; negotiating publisher agreements for authors; and incorporating copyrighted works in your own new works.  The information on this site is provided for your general educational information only.  It is not a substitute for legal advice nor may it pertain to your specific case.  We recommend that you consult with your own attorney or Yale’s Office of General Counsel for specific advice or approvals.

Copyright Basics


What is copyright, what is protected by it, and who owns it?

Copyright is a law. In the United States the law is embodied in the Copyright Act of 1976 (as amended) in Title 17 of the U.S. Code. Copyright law grants to authors and creators of their works exclusive rights for using those works for a limited period of time. These protective rights encourage creators to continue to create and author new works. The law gives the creator the exclusive rights to:

  • reproduce or copy the work;
  • make other derivative works based on the original;
  • distribute the works by giving, lending, or selling it;
  • perform and display the work publicly if it is literary, dramatic, musical, or choreographed, a movie or other audio-visual type; and
  • for sound recordings, exclusively perform the work publicly via digital transmission. 

Copyright protects original works of authorship that is fixed in any tangible and perceivable medium at the time of their creation for the duration of the creator's life plus 70 years.  The person(s) who created the work generally hold the copyright to that work unless it is a work made for hire or the creator transfers those rights to someone else. Works protected under copyright law are:

  • literary works;
  • musical works and any accompanying words;
  • dramatic works and any accompanying music;
  • pantomimes and choreographic works;
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
  • sound recordings; and
  • architectural works.

NOT protected are ideas or concepts | procedures | processes | systems or methods of operation | principles | or discoveries, no matter the form in which it is described, explained illustrated, or embodied in such work.

Ownership of copyright belongs to the creator(s) upon fixation in a tangible medium.  The copyright in a single work may belong to more than one person if the work is the result of a joint effort.  However, the copyright holder may have signed an agreement that the work was one made for hire and therefore, the hiring company or individual owns the copyright.  In another instance, the author may transfer or assign his/her copyright to a publisher as a condition of publication and then the publisher owns the copyright to the work.

Duration of copyright.  Copyright ownership today in the United States lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.  Once the copyright owner's term expires, the work enters the public domain.  The public domain means that the work may be used freely without the former copyright owner's permission. NOTE: The U.S. celebrated Public Domain Day on January 1, 2019 (and for every year thereafter) when works from 1923 entered the public domain.  Public domain works are no longer protected by copyright and may be used in any manner whatsoever.

How can copyrighted works be used?

With the copyright holder's permission, copyrighted works may be used by other people for a variety of other purposes.

Copyright law also provides exceptions to and limitations on the exclusive rights held by a copyright holder.  In some cases, a user does not have to seek permission from the copyright owner.  The law includes these limitations and exceptions to help foster creativity of new and different works  The exceptions, among other things:

  • help others who want to use existing copyrighted works as inspiration for new and transformational works;
  • permit libraries and archives to lend to or reproduce works for others research or preservation purposes; and
  • let buyers of physical editions to give, lend, or sell their purchased copy to someone else.

For example, fair use permits users to use bits and pieces of copyrighted musical compositions in mashups that incorporate new original music, or create parodies of original works, or allows quotes of portions of works in order to comment on the subject and make new understandings.

The exceptions allow the library to lend materials to its patrons, or make copies of portions of a work to send to patrons of other libraries, or make copies of works that are deteriorated or no longer usable on equipment for which it was originally made.

The first sale doctrine permits the owner of a CD or DVD to lend it to a friend or even sell it to an interested party.

These exceptions are explored more fully in the section Using Copyrighted Works.

Other Considerations

You may have to consider other rights when using or producing copyrighted works such as privacy or rights of publicity and trademark.  For more information on these and other copyright topics, see Yale's Rights Clearance Guide for Digital Projects.

For copyright information on use of Yale University Library materials and web site please visit:

Most of Yale's licensed resources are subject to copyright and may only be used for educational, research, and scholarly purposes.  Access is limited to the Yale University authorized user population, those who have been issued valid IDs, and often those who are physically on university premises.  Sharing ID and login information is strictly prohibited and may expose such a user to legal action by the information provider.

  • E-resource Access & Use
    • Yale University Library licenses electronic resources for the Yale community.  The license permits use of the works that might otherwise infringe on the copyright holder's exclusive rights.
    • Broad terms outlining permitted and prohibited uses of Yale University licensed electronic resources
    • Terms Governing Use of Materials
      • Use and reuse of YUL's digital collections for educational and research purposes only
      • Reuses may infringe others' copyrights
  • Information regarding publisher take-down notices
    • General information on what to do if you receive a take-down notice for materials you have posted on the web.

Copyright introduction for members of the broader Yale community:


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This guide is fluid and subject to change.  If you have suggestions or feedback on this site, please contact the  Copyright Librarian & Contracting Specialist.  The information provided in this guide is for your general information purposes only and not to be construed as legal advice.  For legal advice, please consult with your own attorney or Yale's Office of General Counsel.

Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Creative Commons License

Copyright for Authors & Creators

Copyright for Authors & Creators

Most authors of books or journal articles are required to sign an agreement with their publisher as a condition before publication.  It is important to read these agreements as they are legally binding and may have an impact on how the author can use or reuse the work.  Like any agreement, the publisher agreement should be negotiable so that the author retains some or all of the copyrights associated with the work.

License v. Transfer (or Assignment) of copyrights:

The publisher's agreement says,

Author hereby grants and assigns to XYZ Publisher the exclusive, sole, permanent, world-wide, transferable, sub-licensable and unlimited right to reproduce, publish, distribute, transmit, make available or otherwise communicate to the public, translate, publicly perform, archive, store, lease or lend and sell the Work or parts thereof individually or together with other works in any language, in all revisions and versions (including soft cover, book club and collected editions, anthologies, advance printing, reprints or print to order, microfilm editions, audiograms and videograms), in all forms and media of expression including in electronic form (including offline and online use, push or pull technologies, use in databases and data networks(e.g. the Internet) for display, print and storing on any and all stationary or portable end-user devices, e.g. text readers, audio, video or interactive devices, and for use in multimedia or interactive versions as well as for the display or transmission of the works or parts thereof in data networks or search engines, and posting the Work on social media accounts closely related to the Work), in whole, in part or in abridged form, in each case as now known or developed in the future, including the right to grant further time-limited or permanent rights.

If you were able to get through the above sentence, you should realize that had you signed this agreement, you would have actually transferred all of your copyrights FOREVER (life of author plus 70 years) to XYZ Publisher. 

Instead, ask the publisher to modify the sentence so that you LICENSE to them for a limited time all of these rights.  For example, the revised might read, "Author hereby grants and licenses to XYZ Publisher for a period of (1-5) years, the exclusive, sole, right to...."

The EXCLUSIVE LICENSE is temporary. The term allows the publisher to make as much profit from the work during that term.  After the expiration of the term, you can continue a NON-exclusive license for as long as your copyright's duration or however long you wish, but at all times, you retain the copyright in your works.

Click-through transfers upon submission

Publishers are more frequently requiring authors to accept click-through agreements transferring copyright to the publisher upon submission of a manuscript, even before acceptance to publish.  This is easier for the publisher to manage, but disadvantages the author.  Not only does the electronic submission using this click-through serve to eliminate potential for negotiation, it is difficult to make and keep a copy of the agreement for future reference.  When presented with a click-through option, try contacting the publisher and saying that you prefer to negotiate the terms of the agreement only after the work has been accepted for publication and that you will submit the work by other means.

Publisher Licenses rights back to author

Where you have signed an exclusive license for a period of time OR if you have been forced to transfer and assign the copyright in the work, you no longer have the rights to use your own work and may have to ask permission and even PAY to use your work in other instances. It is a good idea to make sure the agreement states that certain rights are licensed back to you so that you may make use of the work of despite exclusivity or transfer.  Such rights might include:

  • The right to post the work on your own website or in your institutional repository (IR).
  • The right to share the work with colleagues or provide copies to students in your classes.
  • The right to reuse the work in derivative works that you author.
  • The right to reuse illustrations, charts, or graphs in other works or presentations.

Take-Down Notices

Where you decide to post your own work on a website or other Internet outlet AND your author-publisher agreement has not provided permission to do so either by allowing you to keep your copyright, or licensing back the right as noted above, you may receive a "Take Down Notice" from the publisher.  A take-down notice is a first step a publisher takes before making a claim that the posted work is a violation of the terms of your agreement.  It may be true that the posted work infringes the terms of your agreement or it may not be true and your agreement shows that you can, in fact, post in this manner.  Many publishers use robots to scour the web to find infringing instances of posted copyrighted works and as a result may be subject to finding false-positives.  For more information about take down notices, see, Information Regarding Publisher Take-Down Notices on the library website.

Works made for hire

You may come across an agreement that states the work is one that is made for hire.  The publisher is telling you that even though you have created the work, you do not own the copyright.  The publisher owns it because it hired you and the work was made during that "employment."  You might see language in the agreement that says,

The Work including illustrations, tables and figures shall be considered a work made for hire for ABC Publisher and the copyright in the Work, all exclusive rights therein, shall be owned by ABC Publisher.  To the extent the Work or any material contained therein does not qualify as a work made for hire, the Author hereby transfers and assigns to the Publisher during the full term of copyright all exclusive rights comprised in the copyright in the Work and any revisions, thereof including, without limitation the sole right to register the copyright in the Work in ABC Publisher's name and the sole exclusive right throughout the world to do and to license to others to reproduce, license, publish, and distribute the Work in whole or in part in any format or medium.

Here again, if you were to agree to this, you will have given up all of your rights (unless they license some back to you) for the duration of the copyright term.  This is simply another type of agreement and agreements should be negotiable.  Make an effort to work with the publisher to modify the terms as above in the publisher agreement.  Instead of making it a work for hire, push for exclusive for a short term and non-exclusive after the term, ensuring in both cases that you retain some rights (license) to use your own work in ways that are useful to you.

Non-exclusive licenses and open access

If you find that your selected publisher's agreement is too restrictive and want to ensure that your work reaches the widest audience possible, consider publishing in alternative publications.  Many publishers offer open access alternatives and many institutions offer open access publishing options via their IR.  In these cases, you can grant to the publisher a non-exclusive license to publish the work and still retain all of your rights to reuse your own work in whatever way you wish.  In fact, if the non-exclusive license is in place, you may still opt to publish with the original publisher, but the non-exclusive license can lawfully prevail (see 17 U.S.C. §205(e)).  The license should be specific about which rights you are willing to license.  They may include many of the rights as enumerated in the  ABC and XYZ Publishers agreement noted above or as many rights for which you are comfortable.  More on open access is discussed in the section Open Access Options.

Termination of a Copyright Transfer

Its not all bad news.  There is a window of opportunity to reclaim copyrights in a work that you created and subsequently transferred to someone else.  The Copyright Act permits the original author to serve notice of termination, on works created after Jan. 1, 1978, to the publisher no earlier than 30 years after the execution of the grant or 25 years after publication under the grant (whichever occurs first).  The termination then becomes effective 35 years after execution of the grant/ or if right of publication granted, no less than 40 years after execution of the grant/ or 35 years after publication (again, whichever occurs first).  See also: Termination of Transfers and Licenses Under 17 U.S.C. §203.

Publisher-Author Agreement Resources

Not all publishers are created equal!  Some publishers have an excellent reputation using a peer-review process, often rejecting a large quantity of submissions.  Others may be considered predatory, seeking to find as many authors to publish as possible, utilizing questionable publication practices and statistics.  These are often publishers promising to publish open access, sending blast emails to potential authors quoting inaccurate impact factors.

Yale has published a great guide on how to choose a journal for publication of your articles.  In addition, there are sites that can help you locate reputable publishers and those that have generous copyright policies (meaning that you can reuse your own works):

  • SHERPA/RoMEO--provides search option to find journals and publishers general permissions in their typical publisher agreements.
  • Jeffrey Beall's archived Scholarly Open Access site listing low/no quality journals and publishers to beware of in the Open Access publishing arena.

The Open Access (OA) movement is gaining traction in a variety of disciplines and offer a number of publishing/licensing options.  Open Access permits free and open access to copyrighted works.  You may choose to license your open access work through a Creative Commons License that grants the general public license to reuse your work(s) under certain conditions.  Choosing to publish open access does not eliminate your copyrights, but due to the open nature and wide dissemination, makes it more likely that your work will be reused and/or cited.

Green Open Access

Green OA often refers to works that are made available via an institutional repository.  At present, Yale's vehicle for green open access is a publishing platform called EliScholar.  EliScholar provides a digital platform for publishing and archiving the scholarly output of Yale authors for the purpose of open dissemination.  Access to EliScholar is free and open to the world with a few exceptions for temporarily embargoed works.

Gold Open Access

Gold Open Access refers to publisher options available for authors to publish their articles in open access or hybrid (combination of subscription and OA) journals.  Gold OA publishers most frequently requires the author pay an Author Processing Charge (APC) which stands in lieu of the fees generated by subscription and thus subsidizes making the article free and open to the world.  The fees vary from publisher to publisher.  Yale does not subsidize these fees, but there may be departmental funds that can assist or an author can build in the cost of OA publication into grant applications where appropriate.

  • Embargos & Versions

A publisher of Open Access works might require an embargo on the author's license to post his/her article on the author's web site or in the institutional repository.  An embargo is simply a delay of a specified time period before the work may be otherwise posted.  Some publishers will permit only specific versions of the article to be posted in these locations, such as the pre-published version, the submitted version, or the accepted but not edited version.  Make sure to check the language of your Author-Publisher Agreement for the exact version you may use and whether there is an embargo period of which to be aware.

Open Access Publishing Support for Yale Authors

Yale University Library guide for support of open access provides information about negotiated discounts on APCs with a number of publishers.

  • See Also: SPARC Open Access site for more information about OA generally and best practices associated with open access.  Available at the site is an Author Rights Addendum for authors to attach to their existing restrictive Author-Publisher agreements to modify the language to permit authors reasonable reuse where it was formerly denied.  Adding the addendum to the existing contract requires negotiation and signed acceptance between the author and publisher.

Research Data Management @ YUL

Yale site of the Research Data Consultation Group provides support for finding, using, managing, and archiving your research data.  Raw data (facts) are not typically covered by copyright law, but once transformed into an article for publication or unique charts/graphs which helps to parse the significance of the data may be copyrightable.  Wherever data ultimately leads to patents, please refer to the Yale University Patent Policy on this subject.

Copyright and Open Access

  • Creative Commons Licenses

    Creative Commons is a licensing scheme to help authors/creators share their work more openly with others who may want to use their works.  Many authors use one of the available licenses which permit various levels of reuse (See web site for specifics on each of the licenses).   Using a Creative Commons license does not mean that you, as creator loses copyright, but that you want to make your work available so that others may also benefit.  For example the types of licenses available include:

    • CC BY (Attribution)--permits fairly broad reuse as long as the original creator is credited.
    • CC BY-SA (Attribution & Share Alike)--permits broad reuse as long as the original creator is credited AND your new creation is licensed under the same terms.
    • CC BY-ND (Attribution & No Derivatives)--tightens reuse, permits redistribution as long as no changes have been made to the original and the original creator is credited.
    • CC BY-NC (Attribution & Non Commercial)--permits broad reuse as long as the reuse is not for commercial purposes and the original creator is credited.
    • CC BY-NC-SA (Attribution & Non Commercial & Share Alike)--permits broad reuse as long as the reuse is non commercial, the reuse is licensed under the same scheme, and the original creator is credited.
    • CC BY-NC-ND (Attribution & Non Commercial & No Derivatives)--most restrictive of the CC licenses, permits limited non commercial use in ways that do not alter the original work and credit the original author.

CC0 or Public Domain mark.  CC0 permits all uses and the creator waives all rights to the work and the latter indicates that the work belongs to the public domain (no license required), this can only be applied by the creator/rightsholder of a work. 


Dissertations and theses are original works of authorship and are covered by copyright.  NOTE: when using others works within your own, you may be required to seek permissions from those copyright holders before your work can be published.

Publishing your dissertation or thesis

  • Using your formerly published works in your dissertation
    You've managed to publish an article or two in a reputable journal and now want to reprint them in your dissertation! 
    FIRST!!  Dig out that publisher agreement that you signed when you submitted your article to the journal.  Did you assign your copyrights unconditionally to the publisher?  If so, did the agreement license back to you rights to reprint in your other works?  If not, then you may have to request permission from the publisher to use the article(s) in this manner.

  • Using photos, images, charts, and graphs
    When using others' works, either  rely on the fair use doctrine by performing a fair use analysis (see Fair Use tab under Using Copyrighted Works) or by requesting permission of the copyright holder.

Applying a license to your works

If you plan to make your theses or dissertation available for open access, you may choose from a variety of Creative Commons licenses (see also the Open Access Options tab).  If you would like to post your dissertation in EliScholar (YUL's digital publishing platform), you may opt to put an embargo on making it open access to allow time for publication elsewhere.   

Research Data

The recorded factual information associated with the research, including, but not limited to, all records necessary for the reconstruction and evaluation of the results of research, regardless of the form or medium on which the material is recorded (such as lab notebooks, photos, digital images, data files, data processing or computer programs (software), statistical records, etc.).

Research data does not include books, articles, papers, or other scholarly writings that are published or publicly presented; drafts of such scholarly writings; plans for future research; peer reviews; or communications with colleagues. (

Yale and Yale University Library have a number of useful tools and services available to help manage your data:

Data Licensing

Though factual data are generally not subject to copyright protection, nevertheless,some data may contain a component of creativity that may be subject to copyright.   Data is often licensed, purchased, or made freely available by the owner or the user.    Helpful data licensing information can be found at:

Consider open access licenses for your data:



This guide is fluid and subject to change.  If you have suggestions or feedback on this site, please contact the  Copyright Librarian & Contracting Specialist.  The information provided in this guide is for your general information purposes only and not to be construed as legal advice.  For legal advice, please consult with your own attorney or Yale's Office of General Counsel.

Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Creative Commons License

Using Copyrighted Works

Using copyrighted works

CASE Act and the Copyright Claims Board

The CASE Act establishes an alternative dispute resolution system overseen by a tribunal called the Copyright Claims Board (“CCB”) for the purpose of adjudicating “small claims” copyright infringement actions in a shorter, less expensive process—that is, without many of the procedural requirements and expenses of a normal federal court case. Monetary damages are capped at $30,000 for CCB cases.

Library and archive “opt out” of CCB proceedings

Libraries and archives can file a preemptive opt-out of all CCB proceedings and the opt-out would extend to library/archive employees for activities within the employee’s scope of employment. The opt-out results in the dismissal of the CCB claim without prejudice. If the claimant wanted to continue pursuing the claim, the claimant would need to look to more traditional legal mechanisms for asserting a copyright infringement claim, such as filing in federal court.

The university has filed a blanket opt-out covering Yale libraries and archives. It has also designated a service agent to receive notices of CCB claims asserted against the university, its schools, departments and units. Please promptly contact the Office of the General Counsel if your library or archival unit has received a notice stating it is from the CCB or U.S. Copyright Office.

Affect on activities outside of duties as a library/archive employee

While the library/archive opt-out only extends to activities performed within the scope of your employment as a library/archive employee, it is important to understand that participation in CCB proceedings is voluntary. This means, if you receive a CCB claim in your individual capacity, you will also have the option to opt out of CCB proceedings. Individual opt-outs are different than the library/archive blanket opt-out because the individual must file an opt-out every time a CCB claim is filed against them. There is a 60-day opt-out window for individual claims. You should always consult your own attorney for legal advice with regard to such claims. Please see the U.S. Copyright CCB website for more information:

Please feel free to contact me with comments and questions:

Use of other's works in new works or for educational purposes is ubiquitous in an academic setting.  If using content from the Yale University Library's (YUL) licensed electronic resources, restrictions or extensions beyond what copyright law permits may be in place.  The terms of  license agreements between Yale and the copyright holder may supersede copyright law.  The following presents guidelines for typical uses of others' copyrighted works.  Even though your exact scenario may not be represented, you may see similarities which help you to make a decision on how to use the copyrighted work in your application.  Whenever you do use others' copyrighted works, it is a wise practice to attribute the work to the copyright holder! (BEWARE: attribution alone does not make a use lawful)

For more comprehensive information see: Rights Clearance Guide for Digital Projects (YU Office of General Counsel) and A Framework for Analyzing any U.S. Copyright Problem (CC-BY-SA 4.0, Kevin Smith & Lisa Macklin)

Classroom Use | File Sharing | Government Documents | Images | International MOOCs & SNOCs | Music | New Works | Presentations, Exhibits, Websites

Classroom & Course Management Systems Use

Q:  I plan to print out an article to hand out in class that deals with the subject being taught during the course of the semester.  I want my students to read the article and come prepared to discuss the issues in it for a subsequent class.  Can I make copies of the articles for each student in the class?

A: If the article has been downloaded from YUL's database of journal articles, this type of use is generally permitted by license and copyright law.  Note that if the license does not allow this type of use, you may encounter a notice or intermediate page before gaining access to the site stating any restrictions of use.  Otherwise, follow copyright law, which permits copying and distributing for face-to-face classrooms in nonprofit educational settings (17 U.S.C 110(1))

Q:  I am teaching a course this fall and want to upload a series of articles in the learning management system, Canvas, for my students to use in this course.  Can I post the pdfs in the course management system myself?

A: It is possible to upload limited portions of copyrighted materials to the system, but copyright limitations must be observed.  For example, items to which you hold copyright or have permission from the copyright holder or have determined is a fair use (by undertaking an analysis) may be uploaded to Canvas.  You may prefer linking to the articles (where content is licensed by Yale University Library) or make use of the Library's ereserves service.  By linking to the article, students can follow the link and download the article for themselves.  See also Canvas Terms of Use 

Q: I want to show a movie in my class to students that admirably illustrates the theory we have been discussing over the course of this semester.  I may also want to use some music clips to further demonstrate the theory as well.  Can I do this?

A: Talk to your YUL librarian about the DVD you want to use.  Many movies on DVD require a public performance license.  Movies that you purchase from Amazon for your personal use do not typically come with the public performance license and should not be played in its entirety in class or other venue.  For music clips or movie clips, use only the amount necessary to demonstrate the point you are trying to make in the classroom setting.  Copyright law in Section 110 as mentioned above, provides narrow permissions for use in face-to-face classrooms in nonprofit educational settings.

File Sharing

Q: I found an article that I need for my research on SciHub that wasn't available through YUL.  I've been hearing that this might not be legal.  Is that true?

A:  Yes, it is true.  SciHub collects copyrighted works through unlawful means and is unethical to make unauthorized use of these articles.  If YUL does not have the article that you need, it is possible that we can purchase it or request it from another library via ILL or Borrow Direct.  Of course, once you have an authorized copy of the article in hand, you must observe copyright law for any reuse, such as fair use or asking permission as applicable.  It goes without saying that no one at Yale should share usernames and passwords for access to Yale licensed electronic resources with third parties.

Q: My buddies and I have a habit of sharing music files with one another through a peer-to-peer system.  We don't sell them, but just share each other's music. Is this wrong?

A: Yes, it is wrong and should not be done even if it is just for personal use.  Musicians make money in part by licensing and collecting royalties from the sale of their creative works.  It is illegal and unethical and violates Yale policy to do so. (See also: Illegal File Sharing on the Yale IT website).  If you are sued as a result of your unlawful file sharing, the statutory damages can be in the tens of thousands for each infringement!

Government Documents

Q: I've heard that all government documents are in the public domain.  Can I reuse anything produced by any government in any way that I want to?

A: Not exactly.  The federal government (U.S.) works are not eligible for copyright protection under U.S. law.  However, some government documents may contain copyrighted material, so care must be exercised.  The same cannot be said for state and local governments who may have their own laws and regulations regarding copyright. 

Images & Audio Visual Works

Q: I am a Drama School student and hope to use a variety of ARTstor images in stage projections as background against the actors' scenes for my required class production.   The performances will be open and free to the public.  Can I use the images in this way?

A: Artstor offers users a limited license to access, use, reproduce, publicly display and perform, and distribute content from the Artstor Digital Library for non-commercial scholarly and/or educational purposes only.  As long as the performance does not charge admission and is intended for scholarly and educational purposes, the intended use sounds acceptable.  Alternatively, the student can consider a fair use application by using the four factor analysis (see Fair Use tab).

Q: I am a graduate student who is preparing an article for publication.  I want to put maps and images in my article and the article will eventually become a dissertation.  How do I make sure I can use images and maps?

A: Check the rights of the images/maps that you want to use.  You may have to click on several links in the image metadata.  Searching Google Images makes that easy if you use the tools link and filter images based on the type of use you are looking for.  Look to see if the map is a government resource and thus likely to be in the public domain.  Assess whether your work will eventually become commercial and whether you can make a fair use claim for the use of in-copyright materials (make sure to complete a fair use analysis if claiming that!)

International Copyright

Q: I want to use part of a copyrighted work that comes from a different country in my own work that I hope to publish.  Do I have to know what copyright law is in that country?

A: Rule of thumb is that you should abide by the rules of the country in which you are using the copyrighted work.  So if you are in the U.S., you should follow U.S. copyright laws.  In this case, you have the fair use doctrine or the option to contact the copyright holder and seek permission for your use.


MOOC=Massive Open Online Course  |  SNOC=Small Network Online Course

Q: Faculty member designs MOOC to be given over 6 weeks during the spring semester and wants to post pdf copies of several articles (including a few of his own) to the MOOC website.

A: If the faculty member downloaded the articles to be used from the YUL licensed materials or elsewhere, generally licenses and copyright law prohibit reproducing and distributing this content in such a broad manner even though it may be used for educational purposes only.  For YUL licensed materials, access to the content is limited to Yale's authorized user population.  In some cases where the faculty member is the author, as a condition of publication, he may have signed over his copyrights to the publisher.  The faculty member must review his agreement with the publisher to see if it licensed back some rights (such as reproduction and distribution for courses taught) to the author.  Otherwise, it is safe to provide to the course participants the citation for the resource so the student can locate the article or provide copies of articles or works in the public domain or under Creative Commons license.

Q: I want to include articles in a SNOC that is limited to a handful of registered students at a number of participating member institutions for this course.  Some of the students may be at Yale and others at different institutions, but all are matriculated at their institution.  May I provide articles from Yale Library's databases to all students?

A: It depends.  If they are your own articles and you have the rights to reproduce and distribute (not having signed away those rights exclusively to a publisher), you may post them for students of your SNOC.  The same applies to other faculty of the participating member institutions with their permission.  Otherwise, the situation is the same as for a MOOC.  If the articles come from Yale Library licensed materials, there are probably restrictions prohibiting copy and distribution to non-authorized users.  Try coordinating the resources for your courses with the other schools' libraries so that links to the articles which may be subscribed by the member schools can be made available locally to their participating students.


Q: I am writing a play for my Drama class where I plan to incorporate snippets of 1960s music as fade in/out of various scenes.  The play MAY be publicly performed, but I'm not sure at this point.  Can I just use small clips without obtaining an expensive license?

A: Music is a thorny category.  Sound recordings were given federal copyright protection in 1972, but sound recordings made before Feb. 15, 1972 were only protected under state law which means that some of your 1960s music might have different protections depending on the state in which the music was created.  So the answer to your question is a definite maybe!  There are many stakeholders of copyright in music, the composer, the lyricist, and the recording entity, so if permission is required, you may have to clear permission from several people/entities.  You may be able to pursue a fair use argument.  Use one of the recommended fair use tools in this guide or on the Office of General Counsel's fair use guide.  For further information about clearing music rights, please visit the Yale's Office of General Counsel's Rights Clearance Guide for Digital Projects.

New Works

Q: I'm creating a storymap and want to incorporate GIS-based maps in it.  Do I have to ask permission to do so?

A: Maybe.  If you created the GIS data and map, of course there is no restriction on how you use it (unless you transferred, sold, or assigned the rights to someone else!).  If you are reusing commercial GIS-based maps, say from ArcGIS, Google, or Apple, find the detail information on that map for terms of use and how the map should be cited.  If you are reusing someone else's GIS data/map from a published source, see if there is any copyright information attached and/or perform a fair use analysis to determine if your intended use is likely to be a fair one (see also the Fair Use tab of this guide).

Q: I am writing an article for publication and plan to reproduce a chart from a colleague's research that I found in an older article.  Can I just use the chart as long as I attribute it to my colleague?

A: Chances are that the copyright in the chart is now owned by the publisher.  Many authors assign or transfer their copyright to the publisher in their author-publisher agreements.  You may have to ask the publisher for permission to reproduce the chart for your article and pay for the permission either directly to the publisher or to the Copyright Clearance Center who may be tasked with collecting royalties for certain publishers.  Alternatively, you can conduct a fair use analysis to see if your intended use of the chart may fall under the fair use limitation of copyright law (see Fair Use tab of this guide).

Q: I am going to reproduce a chart from a published article that I wrote a few years ago in a new article.  I don't need to ask anyone's permission to reuse my own chart, right?

A: You may have to ask the publisher for permission if you assigned your copyright in the chart to the publisher.  Many publishers, however, do license back to the author a right to use their work in subsequent publications, but it will depend on the publisher.  Refer to your author-publisher agreement or look up the publisher policies on author reuse by looking at the publishers website or contacting the publisher for this information.

Presentations,  Exhibits, & Websites

Q: I'm giving a presentation at a professional society meeting in June.  In my powerpoint presentation, I plan to incorporate a number of humorous cartoons to illustrate the point I'm making and to provide relief from straight text.  Can I use cartoons this way?

A: The answer is a definite maybe.  It depends on where you get the cartoons and whether the copyright holder requires you ask permission (and pay) to use them.  Try looking for an illustration/image/cartoon by performing a Creative Commons search where you need only give the cartoonist attribution.  Alternatively, conduct a general Internet search for a cartoon on the topic you are presenting. Click on the desired cartoon to find out whether the cartoon has a CC license or is subject to copyright before using it or limit your search by narrowing the search to specific usage rights such as cartoons "Labeled for reuse."

Q: I'd like to post the pdf of a published article that I wrote on my own website.  Can I do that?

A: It depends on the agreement you signed with the publisher.  Did you transfer your copyright?  Did the publisher license back your right to post "a version" of the article under certain conditions?  It is best to refer to your publisher agreement to see what rights you have to your own authored work before you post the pdf.  You MAY post a link to the article on the publisher's website, but be aware that the article may be available to some who have access (e.g. via an institutional license) or may be inaccessible behind the publisher's paywall that demands a fee to see the full-text article.

Fair use is a right that may be exercised by people using others' copyrighted works without first seeking permission from the copyright holder.  It is wise to establish a habit of analyzing your use of others' copyrighted works under the fair use guidelines and if determined fair, then attributing that portion of the work to the original creator.

Is It Fair Use or Do I Need Permission?

Fair use is codified by the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 as amended (17 U.S.C. §107).  The statute provides guidance to determine whether a use can be considered fair.  There are no bright line rules, but rather a balancing of four factors serves to indicate whether the intended use is fair or not.  Only a court of law can make the final determination should your use be the cause of litigation.

*NOTE*: Not all use in a nonprofit educational institution is or should be considered fair use.  Neither does merely attributing the work to the creator support a fair use argument. 

Undertaking a Fair Use Analysis

Start by reviewing the four factors and decide whether your interpretation of that factor in relation to your intended use weighs in favor or against fair use.  The four factors are:

  1. The purpose and character of your use / whether your use is for commercial or nonprofit educational purposes / or whether your use significantly transforms the original work.
  2. The nature of the work you want to use.  Is is highly creative or more factual using less creativity?
  3. How much of the work do you plan to use?  Is the amount or substantiality of the portion used the minimum needed to get your point across or are you using the "heart" of the original work?
  4. Is there an existing market for the work that your use might undermine or usurp?

Once the analysis is complete, see whether on balance, more factors weigh in favor or against fair use.  This exercise should be completed for every third party copyrighted work you want to include in your own work.

A number of tools are available to help you determine if your use is fair:

  • Yale's Fair Use Analysis Tool guides you through an analysis of your project/work in terms of the four factors.  You best know how you want to incorporate third party copyrighted works into your own. 
  • Michael Brewer & the American Library Association's Office for Information Technology Policy Fair Use Evaluator is a reputable online tool that walks you through the four factors.
  • The Fair Use Checklist created by Kenneth Crews (formerly of Columbia University) is helpful in conjunction with a narrative analysis to suggest use elements that can be included in the narrative.

In all cases, if you use a tool to analyze the four factors or if you undertake your analysis in some other format, KEEP A COPY OF THE ANALYSIS with your project.  You never know whether you will ever be called upon to justify that you undertook a good faith effort to support your assertion that your use was a fair use.

Other Fair Use Resources

If you do not believe that you have a strong fair use argument for your use of someone's work, you may always ask permission from the copyright holder.

Find the Copyright Holder

  • For works registered with the Copyright Office from Jan.1, 1978 to present, the Copyright Office Online Records Catalog.

  • See Also:  For looking up copyright holders who are writers, artists, and others in creative fields The WATCH File (created by University of Texas Austin & University of Reading, UK) may provide useful information.

Seeking Permission

  • Yale's Rights Clearance Guide for Digital Projects is a comprehensive guide to help users of third-party copyrighted works to determine whether permission is required and if so, how to get it.  The guide includes worksheets and sample permission request forms and agreements.

  • The Copyright Clearance Center is a company that provides a service to clear rights for individuals wanting to use third-party in-copyright works.  There is a fee to use this service, some of which goes to paying for the service, but also used for paying the original creator(s) royalties. Permissions obtained through the CCC are reliable and can be used to show that you have cleared rights for use of these works in your own work. 

Is the work in copyright?

Not all works are still in copyright.  Copyright protection only lasts for a limited period of time.  Where copyright has expired, the work may be considered to be in the PUBLIC DOMAIN.  Works that are in the public domain may be used freely for any purpose.  If you believe the work you want to use may have an expired copyright, there are ways to check its copyright status.  Rule of thumb today in the United States is that copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years, but it may be different for works that were produced prior to our current law.  The same applies to the notion that anything published before 1923 is in the public domain.  Again, that may be true, but there may be other factors that may affect the actual date that copyright expires.  A number of tools are available to help you determine whether a work is still in copyright.

  • Check the date.  One of the most useful tools to determine copyright status is Peter Hirtle's Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States chart.
  • Check the renewal status.  For U.S. books published between 1923 through 1963, works initially copyrighted for the 28 year term may have expired at the end of that term as the authors were required to proactively renew their copyright.  Stanford University has created a useful Copyright Renewal Database to look up the information for books published during this period.

Works created under a Creative Commons License

Creative Commons is a licensing scheme to help creators share their work more openly with others who may want to use their works.  Many authors use one of the available licenses which permit various levels of reuse (See web site for specifics on each of the licenses).  The site also has an option for you to search specifically for images, videos, text and music that are available under a CC license.  Works created under a Creative Commons license are still copyrighted works, they are not considered public domain and should be used only in accordance with the license applied.

Works in the Public Domain/Open Access/Government Documents

Using works that are currently in the public domain is a great option!  If it is truly in the public domain, you can reuse the work in any manner you like for commercial or noncommercial purposes.  There are many sites that host public domain materials in addition to those in-copyright.  For example, you can find public domain images from the sites of many cultural institutions including the Yale Art Gallery, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, and the Yale Center for British Art.  (see also: Yale University Policy: Open Access to Digital Representations of Works in the Public Domain from Museum, Library, and archive Collections (2011))

When searching in Google Images, you can filter your results by clicking the "Tools" link and clicking on "Usage rights."  Also, you might try looking at the Internet resource, The Public Domain Review to find other resources or a variety of Institutional Repositories, including the Digital Commons Network that post many open access (though not necessarily public domain) resources.

In addition, unless otherwise noted, U.S. Government Works may be used by anyone without restriction UNLESS it falls under an exception.  U.S. Government works are those that are prepared by officers or employees of the U.S. government as part of their official duties.  Exceptions to uses of U.S. government works where reuse is restricted may include works that:

  • involve rights of privacy or publicity;

  • involve U.S. government trademarks or logos;

  • imply U.S. government endorsement;

  • may have been prepared as works for hire by independent contractors;

  • are not works of the U.S. government, but that of U.S. state or local governments; or

  • may be used in foreign jurisdictions.

For complete information on U.S. Government works see


Yale University makes no warranty that your distribution, reproduction or other use of these materials will be non-infringing. You are solely responsible for making legal assessments regarding the use of an item and securing any necessary permissions. The written permission of the copyright owners and/or holders of other rights (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) is required for distribution, reproduction, or other use of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions.

Email or specific collections for additional assistance.

All Other Libraries


This guide is fluid and subject to change.  If you have suggestions or feedback on this site, please contact the  Copyright Librarian & Contracting Specialist.  The information provided in this guide is for your general information purposes only and not to be construed as legal advice.  For legal advice, please consult with your own attorney or Yale's Office of General Counsel.

Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Creative Commons License

Shifting Your Course Online

Shifting Your Course Online

Shifting Your Course from In-person to Online

Transitioning your course from in-person to online teaching involves significant pedagogical and technical considerations. Considering the global COVID19 pandemic, copyright should not be an additional concern. There already exists robust legal exceptions to copyright related to education and fair use that apply to in-person and online teaching. Making sure your online course content is limited to enrolled students through Canvas, Yale's learning management system, can help reinforce these exceptions. Please review the Tips & Good Practices webpage for guidance on the appropriate use of content in Canvas.

(This is an iterative document, please continue to check this link for resources and updates. Last updated September 2, 2020.)

Recording lectures and slides

If you have slides and lecture content for your students, you can likely continue to share instructor created materials through live video conferencing or recorded lectures. For information on how to use Canvas to schedule one-time or recurring sessions visit the Academic Continuity website from the Poorvu Center. Instructors can use their webcam or share their screen with course materials. There are also directions for how instructors can create voice-over slide presentations. Instructors often post lecture content to Canvas for students to access or review outside of class, this is no different.

Using audio or video

Using online video in teaching and learning is a common practice in higher education. Yale University Library provides licensed access to several streaming video resources that can be used to support and supplement traditional lecture content. Streaming video can help students understand complex concepts that are difficult to explain using only text. Videos are available in multi-disciplinary and subject specific collections. The Yale Film Archive can provide additional resources related to films.

Streaming video resources can be embedded directly into Canvas, and many platforms include closed captions and searchable transcripts. Instructors can use the University Library catalog to search for streaming video content and the Poorvu Center has information on how to capture and embed content into your Canvas course.

For multimedia content that is not available through the library, it may be more challenging. Showing video or audio in a face to face course is legal through the Classroom Use Exemption, but this same exemption does not translate the same way in online learning. The TEACH Act permits 'reasonable and limited' portions of audiovisual works, making brief clips of content that is central to your teaching can help adhere to these requirements. For media that cannot be made into brief clips, contact Course Reserves for additional assistance. You should also consider content that students can independently access outside of Canvas. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Disney+ all offer options for streaming access.

Where to post your videos

You can post course videos on Canvas. Lecture capture videos on Panopto (Media Library on Canvas) can be linked to and embedded within Canvas. You also can post and link to videos you create on YouTube.  If you create and post videos posted on YouTube, keep in mind that some automated copyright enforcement, such as a takedown notice, or disabling of included audio or video content could occur. If you encounter something like this that you believe to be in error, you can contact for assistance.

Course readings and other resources

Licensed resources are provided by the library for Yale users. Stable web-links, or permalinks, for e-books, articles, and streaming videos can be embedded directly into Canvas modules. From there, students will login to the library through CAS to authenticate their access. 

When off-campus, users sign in through VPN to access material. More information on linking for off-campus access, including an off-campus linking tool, is available on Off-Campus Access to eResources.

(In light of the COVID 19 pandemic, some vendors provided expanded access to their content.  As of September 2020,  expanded access to most content expired.) 

If you need assistance finding supplemental online content for your students, contact your subject specialist.


When possible, link to a legitimate online copy of the work instead of posting or uploading it in Canvas. Linking helps to mitigate the risk of infringement when using legitimate resources. Use your best judgment to determine authenticity; for example, it is unlikely Disney authorized the full reproduction of the Black Panther film uploaded to YouTube by PantherFan510. As mentioned above, links to library licensed materials using permalinks that can be embedded directly into Canvas. 

Sharing copies

Depending on the content, there are different options for sharing materials with your students. Sharing portions or specific sections of works in an educational setting is often considered a fair use, whether it's in-person or online. Fair use exists as an exception to copyright law allowing the use of copyrighted materials without permission for certain purposes. A finding of fair use is based on four factors: the purpose of the use, the nature of copyrighted work, the amount of the work being used, and the effect of the use on the market for the copyrighted work. More information on fair use, including conducting a fair use analysis, is available through the Yale Office of General Counsel.

If you don't feel comfortable relying on fair use, reach out to your subject specialist and they may be able to help suggest alternative content that is already available online through library subscriptions or publicly available content. Asking permission from the copyright owner is another option, but it may be difficult to negotiate a license for some material. 

Ownership of online course materials

The Yale Copyright Policy affirms that faculty own the copyright in their scholarly writings and creative works. Considering the global pandemic, the Office of the Provost has provided clarification on faculty ownership of instructional material. The statement clarifies that “scholarly writings” under the Yale University Copyright Policy include instructional content and materials originally authored by individual instructors that are shared in online teaching. The University cedes copyright ownership in such instructional content and materials, even in cases where digital versions are created using Yale-supported technology. The policy clarifications decided by the Office of the Provost will remain in effect through December 31, 2020.

University policies also affirm that students own the copyright in their own coursework. Instructors can require them to submit it in particular formats, but the students continue to own their works unless a separate agreement is signed by the student.



Contact for further information or assistance.

Review the Office of General Counsel’s resources for information on fair use and TEACH Act.

Adapted from Rapidly shifting your course from in-person to online from the University of Minnesota Libraries licensed under CC BY-NC 3.0



Fair Use Week

Fair Use Week Explained:

Section 107 imageFair Use Week was originally conceptualized by the best practices team at ARL (Brandon Butler, Pia Hunter, et al.) as a follow-up to the launch of the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries.  The first celebratory activities of Fair Use Week were launched by Harvard's Copyright Advisor, Kyle K. Courtney in 2014 and  now is celebrated nation-wide and Canada (as Fair Dealing) during the last week of February.  The week highlights the many uses relying on fair use and helps to inform our academic communities and the public at large about this exception created in the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976.  Fair use is described in §107 of the Act and may be used judiciously upon undertaking analysis of the section's four factors: Purpose of the use; Nature of the work being used; Amount of the original work used; and whether there is an effect on the Marketability for the original copyright holder.  This clause in the law allows all individuals the right to use copyrighted works without permission of the copyright holder IF the user, after reasonable assessment of the four factors, finds that the use weighs in favor of fair use.  For more information about fair use and undertaking a fair use analysis, see the fair use tab in this Research Guide under Using Copyrighted Works and the Fair Use Analysis tool also found on the office of General Counsel's Rights Clearance for Digital Projects.

Celebrate Fair Use Week!

Fair Use Week logo FAIR USE WEEK 2023!

Please join the Scholarly Communication and Information Policy Unit for this week for our Fair Use Week 2023 Celebration.

See below for more information and log on details.

Copyright Updates (Virtual)

If you missed this session during Open Access Week in October, please join Sandra Aya Enimil, Program Director for Scholarly Communication & Information Policy, for an informative session on copyright and recent developments in U.S. Copyright Law. 

What: Information Session

When: Monday, February 20, 2023, 2:00-2:50 PM

Please register here:


Walking Through Fair Use (Virtual)

Fair Use is an exemption in U.S. Copyright law available to users of copyrighted content.  Fair Use relies on a four-factor analysis to allow users to reuse content without permission from the rights holders. Please join this information session and workshop on Fair Use. During the program, you will learn about fair use and how to work through a fair use analysis. One lucky attendee will receive a full set of Fair Use coasters created by the American Library Association.

What: Information Session and Workshop

When: Wednesday, February 22, 2023, 1-2:15 PM

Please register here:



Wednesday, February 22, 2023 10:00AM

What: Cross-posted blog on fair use.

When: Wednesday, February 22, 2023, 10:00AM



Fair Use Week Tea & Coffee Break (Virtual)

Bring a cup of coffee or tea (or whatever you fancy) and let’s chat about Fair Use! Feel free to drop in any time during the break.

One lucky person will receive a full set of Fair Use coasters.

What: Fair Use Week Tea & Coffee Break

When: Friday, February 24, 2023, 2:00-2:50 PM

No need to register! Drop in here:




This guide is fluid and subject to change.  If you have suggestions or feedback on this site, please contact the  Copyright Librarian & Contracting Specialist.  The information provided in this guide is for your general information purposes only and not to be construed as legal advice.  For legal advice, please consult with your own attorney or Yale's Office of General Counsel.

Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Creative Commons License