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Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines

A brief overview of Copyright, Fair Use, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the TEACH Act.


Nothing on this guide is to be construed as legal advice. These pages are only intended to provide information and guidance in the application of copyright law, see Copyright@RUThank you to Miller Nichols Library of UMKC for permission to reuse material from their Copyright guide.

Begin Here

First, determine if you are dealing with a copyrighted work.

  • Copyright covers "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression."
    Copyright protection is automatic from the moment of creation. Student work, class notes, YouTube videos, websites, personal letters, email, diagrams, and many other things are all covered by copyright.

  • Is the work in the public domain? Most federal government publications and works created prior to January 1,1925 are in the public domain and may be freely used. Works created between 1925 and 1989 may be in the public domain, but require more investigation. See the public domain tab to learn more about this.
  • Is the work licensed by the University? License agreements take precedence over copyright and may be more or less restrictive than copyright.
    • Check the Greenlease Library's list of databaseslist of electronic journals, and ebooks.
    • Check to see if the copyrighted resources you wish to use are licensed by your department.
    • Check with university general counsel to see if a blanket performance license covers your proposed use.
    • Check to see if the work you wish to use is covered by a Creative Commons license.

Second, if the work is not in the public domain or licensed for use, is there a legal exemption to copyright law that would allow you to use the work?

  • Section 110 (1) covering classroom performance and display
  • The TEACH Act (Section 110 (2)) covering digital transmissions for performance and display
  • The DMCA exemptions regarding the circumvention of encryption and other access controls 

Third, if the work you wish to use is not licensed or covered by an exemption, you may run a Fair Use  analysis.

If none of the above allows you to use a copyrighted work, then you can seek permissionwhich may involve paying royalties.

Copyright @ RU

This guide is not meant to offer or substitute for legal advice.

Nothing on this guide is to be construed as legal advice.  The purpose of this guide is to provide basic information and guidance to the Rockhurst community about copyright law and fair use in an academic setting. It is the responsibility of faculty, staff, and students to use this guide to determine copyright compliance.

The Rockhurst University library complies with all applicable copyright laws and related guidelines. Library staff are not copyright authoritites and do not give recommendations beyond the resources that are provided in this guide. Rockhurst University counsel should be consulted for final authority on copyright compliance. Contact with legal counsel can be made through the Deans of the schools, the Vice President for Academic Affairs, and the Human Resources Department. 

Use of the university's network and computers is the responsibility of the university Computer Services department. Information on computer use at Rockhurst can be found on the Computer Services Help Desk website. 

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