Skip to main content

Copyright

The resources listed here explain copyright rights, duration of protection and how to use copyright-protected works. This guide is intended for teachers, students and librarians.

Using Copyright-Protected Works

There are several ways we can use copyright-protected works in compliance with copyright law.  This decision tree is a guide to thinking through common options.

1. IS THE WORK IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN?  If yes, use the work.  If no, go to step 2.

Works in the public domain include:

works for which the copyright has expired  (The copyright duration tools on this page will help you to know.)

works authored by the US federal government

works with a CC0 license

2. DOES THE WORK HAVE A CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE THAT ALLOWS YOUR USE?  If yes, use the work.  If no, go to step 3.

Creative Commons licenses combine these terms:

   CC -  Creative Commons

   BY - use requires attribution to the author 

   ND - no derivative uses 

   NC - no commercial uses

   SA - "Share Alike", or any person who uses the CC work to create a new work must then assign a CC license to the resulting work.  Thus, the original work will remain in the commons. 

CC0   CC0 - the creator has relinquished all rights to the work to the fullest extent possible

For more information about the Creative Commons and open resources, see the open educational resources guide.

3. DOES COLUMBIA COLLEGE HAVE A LICENSE THAT ALLOWS YOUR USE?  If yes, use the work.  If no, go to step 4.

The Columbia College Library licenses many databases of texts, videos, music, art, and more!  Most licenses allow reasonable academic uses of works.  If you question whether your use would fall within license terms, contact the Library. 

4. IS YOUR USE FAIR USEIf yes, use the work.  If no, go to step 4.

5. SEEK PERMISSION TO USE THE WORK. 

Here is a quick overview of the permissions process.  These databases can help you to locate a copyright owner:

Writers, Artists, and Their Copyright Holders (The WATCH File)

Records of the US Copyright Office