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Copyright Resources


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Siobhan McCarthy
Harry A. Sprague Library
Reference Department, Room 102

Understanding Copyright

Determine if the work is under copyright

First, determine if you are dealing with a copyrighted work. Generally works created prior to 1923 are in the public domain. See the public domain tab to learn how to identify works in the public domain.

Copyrighted Works

If the work is copyrighted, your next step is to:

  1. Determine if the work is licensed by the University (in which case the copyright is covered for you)
  2. Check the Sprague Library collection of databases and electronic resources.
  3. Check to see if the copyrighted resources you wish to use are licensed by MSU.
  4. If licensed and your use is permitted by that license, proceed as the license permits.
    • Section 110 (1) covering classroom performance and display ("Media in the Classroom" tab)
    • The TEACH Act (Section 110(2)) covering digital transmissions for performance and display
    • The DMCA exemptions

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?


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

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

Kevin Smith, Fair Use of Movies & Music: Managing Copyright in Higher Ed, 2010

Other Resources for Copyright

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