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Copyright & Fair Use: Copyright & Fair Use

What is copyright?

Copyright SymbolWhat is Copyright?

Copyright protects a creator’s rights to distribute and reproduce works they have created.

  • Anything that has been put into a “tangible” medium (e.g., a piece of paper, a website, a journal, a book, a video, software code) is copyrighted, even if it does not have a copyright symbol on it. 
  • A copyright symbol isn’t required to assert copyright.
  • If content is copyrighted, you cannot use it in your work without obtaining the permission of the copyright holder. There are exceptions, such as public domain (described below), however, to be safe, all material should be considered copyrighted unless you see a clear indication it is not.

What is NOT covered by copyright?

Image: "Copyright" by Arthur Shlain from the Noun Project-CCBY

Take-Away Pearls

  • Assume all material is protected by copyright unless you see a clear indication otherwise. 
  • All USU personnel (contractors, students, staff and faculty) are responsible for ensuring their compliance with copyright rules and policies.
  • Even if you are using material for teaching, Fair Use may not apply to your specific situation. All four factors will be considered by a court.
  • What are the chances you'll find yourself in trouble? You are almost guaranteed a conversation if a work interferes with the owner's potential income (e.g. big companies like Disney, publishers, and small businesses).
  • Use the Copyright Clearance Center to find out if you have permission to use a specific copyrighted work or a portion of it (e.g., an article, or a table or image from an article) for an audience limited to USU faculty, staff and students.

The Copyright Clearance Center License

USU has an Academic License for the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC). Searching the CCC from the LRC’s website for the title of the journal or book you wish to use content from will tell you if the University's license grants you permission to use the resource, and under what conditions use is approved. Often, however, this license only extends to products shared with faculty, staff, and students of USU.


About this page

This page was created by USU ETI and LRC in consultation with External Affairs and OGC. 

Fair Use Introduction and Checklist

Fair use is an exception specifically incorporated into copyright law that allows one-time limited use of copyrighted material for specific purposes. If you are planning to use something more than once (either in two different presentations, or one presentation for two different events), you need to get permission from the copyright holder.  

When determining whether a person's use of copyrighted material falls under the Fair Use exception, courts consider four factors:

  1. The Purpose and Character 
  2. The Nature 
  3. The Amount 
  4. The Effect 


The checklist below is provided as a tool to assist you when undertaking a fair use analysis.  The four factors listed in the Copyright Statute are only guidelines for making a determination as to whether a use is fair.  

There is no magic formula to the application of the four factors.  It is possible that even if three of the factors would tend to favor a fair use finding, the fourth factor may be the most important one in that particular case, leading to a conclusion that the use may not be considered fair. 

Usually it is safe to assume that if you plan on using the item more than once, fair use does NOT apply. 

The Checklist below and this introduction are licensed by a Creative Commons Attribution License with attribution to the original creators of the checklist Kenneth D. Crews (formerly of Columbia University) and Dwayne K. Buttler (University of Louisville). 

Fair Use - Presentations & Teaching

Preparing for a course lecture, a conference or other public presentation? Consult the table below to determine if the following actions can be considered Fair Use in specific situations:

  • Use an image from another source (e.g., a website, textbook, or a journal article)
  • Use a table from another source (e.g., a website, textbook or a journal article)
  • Play audio or video from another source (e.g., a movie, a YouTube video, a podcast)

Type of Use

Event NOT Recorded (Video or Audio) Event Recorded (Video or Audio) Materials Posted on: Webpage/site, LMS, etc. Materials Shared via Handouts, Journal, Proceedings, email,  etc.
One Time Use - In-Person Conference / Teaching Yes No No No
One Time Use -  Virtual Conference / Teaching Yes No No No
Distribution of a Full-text (PDF) Journal Article/ Publication N/A N/A No, unless through e-Reserve. No

USU Training

I have questions! I need HELP!

This page represents the guidelines for most cases, but copyright law is constantly evolving. If you have questions about the guidelines presented here reach out to OGC, ETI, or the LRC librarians for guidance.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons LogoA Creative Commons (CC) license allows copyright holders to grant usage rights to the public for their content (e.g. images) for designated purposes, e.g. non-commercial use with modifications. Searching for images released under a CC license can help identify works you may be able to use. If you own the copyright on an image, you may also want to consider sharing it with the world through a CC license. 

To learn more, visit the Creative Commons website

Additional Information

If you're using publisher-supplied teaching materials, please consult the publishers' term of use. If you have additional questions, please contact the LRC. 

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