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Using Copyrighted Works

The vast majority of scholarly works are protected by copyright, and it is important you respect the copyrights of others when using these works in your teaching and research.

Fair Use 

Fair use allows you to use limited portions of a work in the name of teaching and scholarship without having to obtain permission from the copyright holder. Certain criteria, however, must be met before proceeding.

Getting Permission

If fair use isn’t an option, you can always ask permission from the copyright holder. The library’s Course Reserves and Copyright Services office will help.

Public Domain Works

Public domain materials are not protected by copyright and can, therefore, be used freely. Material in this category includes:

1. Works with expired copyright (items published before 1923 are in the public domain)

2. Works not copyrightable or protected by copyright

3. Works produced by the United States federal government (with the exception of certain materials vital to national security)

4. Works clearly donated to the public domain (through open access publishing, for example)

Public domain works can be used without having to obtain permission, though it is best practice to acknowledge the source.

Creative Commons Works 

Creative Commons licenses allow creators and authors to retain the copyright to their works while granting others the ability to use, share, and build upon that work. These licenses are a way people make their work freely and easily available to others for the good of the community.


Plagiarism is presenting the work or ideas of another in your research without properly acknowledging the source. If you use the work of someone else and either knowingly or inadvertently claim it as your own you are committing an act of plagiarism.

Registering Your Copyright

Copyright protection begins the moment an original work is fixed in tangible form. It is, therefore, not necessary to register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office.

There are, however, some reasons you may want to register your copyright:

  • Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim
  • Registration is necessary before an infringement suit can be filed in court 

Should you decide to do so, registration may be made at any time within the duration of the copyright. The decision to register a work belongs entirely to the copyright holder.