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Copyright Essentials

Need permission if ...

One-time OR repeatedly placing something on eReserve (Library will obtain and pay for permission)

Public showing of a film outside the classroom or the Library (see below, "Public Performances").

Including substantial portion of someone's work in a work you are creating (Faculty Sec'y obtains/pays permission).

To copy or stream a film (streaming and compact discs are digital formats) that you or the library has in VHS format or one that is digital for which we do not have digital rights to.  Essentially the College has no digital rights to any films except those it created or those that the Library has purchased in its streaming video collections. (See "Films" tab in this web page.)


Public Performances

Regarding the public showing of films on campus, the sponsoring program or club must obtain permission and pay whatever fee the copyright holder charges. To advertise a showing of a film to the campus community is a public performance that requires permission. The one and only exception to group viewing is when it is a face-to-face (F2F)  teaching situation. F2F events require that the showing take place in a classroom or Library room with a professor present. 

Obtaining Permission & Payment of Fees

Permission from copyright holders and the payment of a fee are sometimes needed, even when creating course materials. You need to obtain permission when you use a work in a way that infringes on the exclusive rights granted to a copyright holder (i.e. outside the boundaries of fair use). In the case of course reserves and interlibrary loan photocopies that exceed copyright limits, the Library will take care of the copyright permission and associated fees.

If you are a club or a faculty member or a student who wants to use a portion of copyrighted works in something you are publishing, you are required to take the necessary steps.   

  1. Determine if permission is needed for the work you want to use. See Fair Use Checklist.
  2. Identify the copyright holder or find contact for a literary estate**. (See box below.)
  3. Oftentimes publishers have "permissions" sections on their websites that contain online permission forms. If not, send written request for permission to use (See Sample Letter to republish content). For more information, visit the Copyright Clearance Center's Obtaining Permission page. It is an agent for many, but not all, print and digital materials copyright holders. See sample permission letters (by format) from Columbia University's site. Give yourself ample lead time, as the process for obtaining permissions can take weeks. Decide if you are willing to pay a licensing fee/royalty.
  4. If the copyright holder can't be located or does not respond (or if you are unwilling to pay a license fee), be prepared to use a limited amount that qualifies for fair use, or use alternative material.


Finding Who Holds the Rights to a Work

Search for addresses:

For works from 1923-1963: Was copyright ever renewed?

Works published after 1922 and before 1964 had to renew their copyright in the 28th year.  If it was not renewed, the work fell into the public domain.  Some exceptions exist for works first published outside the U.S. Check for renewals in the year marking the 28th year after its publication and the year after in case it was renewed late in the year.

Student Work: Giving Permission

Barring any external funding received (thus possible shared or vacated rights), students are the legal holders of copyright for their school work.

Regarding theses for both Integral Honors and the College's graduate programs, the College may ask for limited rights to produce a set number of print copies of your thesis for deposit in the College. The right to distribute electronic copies of your work must also be obtained by the College. 

If the College has as its policy of its degree programs that limited rights for a set number of print copies be required for matriculation, then the student must comply. A better word in this case is "license."

The granting by the student to the College of a non-exclusive license to publish a thesis online in the College's online repository is not an assignment of copyright. It is permission granted by the student, the copyright owner of the thesis, to the College to copy the student's thesis and make it available online.

Creative Commons Licenses

You do not need permission to share or redistribute material that carries a Creative Commons license.  All CC licenses require users to attribute the original creator(s) of a work, unless the creator has waived that requirement or asked that her name be removed from an adaptation or collection. CC licenses have a sophisticated and flexible attribution requirement, so there is not necessarily one correct way to provide attribution. The proper method for giving credit will depend on the medium and means you are using.

What is CC? (video)

6 types of CC licenses

Anatomy of a CC License (by Claire Sewell, Cambridge University Libraries)

Search CC

How to attribute CC-licensed content

If you want to use a work in a way that is not permitted by the CC license, contact the rightsholder to ask for their permission. Otherwise, unless a exception or limitation to copyright exists, your use of the work may violate the Creative Commons license, your rights to use the work will be automatically terminated, and you may be liable for copyright infringement.

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