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Using the Works of Others

In research, teaching, and scholarly writing, you will often use someone else's work to add context to or support for your arguments. Often, these will be quotations from other authors, but you might also use art, photographs, images, music, or video. Under the principles of copyright law, these works are likely to be protected by copyright law, and the right to copy and distribute the work belongs exclusively to the copyright holder. Fortunately, there are exceptions to the copyright law which, under specified circumstances, allow the use of copyrighted works without explicit permission from the copyright holder and without license fees:

  • Fair Use (statutory provision allowing the limited use of copyrighted materials without permission or license fees in certain circumstances)
  • Open Access (online publishing model that allows users to access copyrighted materials without cost or other barriers)
  • Creative Commons Licenses (licensing system that grants users rights to reuse and build upon CC-licensed materials provided that proper attribution is given and often subject to additional limitations, such as non-commercial uses only)
  • Public Domain (materials not subject to copyright protection and available for use without restrictions)

If none of those exceptions apply, however, you will need to request permission from the copyright holder before using their work. Our Requesting Permission page provides information on the permissions process.