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Copyright: Permissions

A LibGuide to inform faculty and students about copyright.

Where to start?

Advice for Faculty

Due to the complexities of copyright it is extremely difficult to create one resource or policy that addresses all situations. Generally speaking, however, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the format, my intended use of the format, and the amount that I wish to use?
  2. If the source is multimedia (i.e. DVD or CD) might I be better served by showing the work in class or placing it on course reserve? Note: Please contact your subject liaison if you would like the library to purchase a particular DVD to support your classroom teaching. 
  3. Will the amounts permitted in Section 107 (fair use) meet my needs? (See the Fair Use tab)
  4. If not, will the limits outlined in Section 110 meet my needs? (allows for classroom showing of legally acquired multimedia)
  5. If the previous amounts are too restrictive, should I contact the publisher directly and request permission to use the material?

Seeking Permissions:

Once you have identified the materials you want to use and determined that copyright permission is required, you must identify the copyright holder and secure permission to use their work.  A good explanation of the steps for securing permission for copyrighted works can be found on Columbia University’s Copyright Advisory Office website. This site provides direction for obtaining permission for many different types of materials. The site also provides several permission request templates that faculty can use when seeking permission from copyright right holders.

Obtaining Permissions for Repeated Moodle use:

Multiple uses of the same document weigh against Fair Use. If repeated use is expected, faculty and staff are advised to contact the rights holder and seek out the appropriate permission.  When doing so please utilize the Model Permission Letters found at Columbia University's Copyright Advisory Office.

Please note that obtaining publisher permissions is a process that can take up to four weeks. Therefore, faculty and staff are encouraged to plan accordingly.

Obtaining Streaming Rights:

It is recommended that faculty and staff only stream small portions of multimedia.  If there is a need to stream large portions (i.e. the entire work) it is advised that faculty contact the rights holder and ask for permission.  When doing so please utilize the Model Permission Letters found at Columbia University's Copyright Advisory Office. 

Please note that obtaining streaming rights is a process that can take up to four weeks. Therefore, faculty and staff are encouraged to plan accordingly.

What if the Publisher Denies Permission?

Contact Josh Petrusa (jpetrusa@butler.edu / x9236).  In some instances the Irwin Library may be able to purchase a streamed product from our vendor. 

Not Sure Where to Start?

Contact Josh Petrusa (jpetrusa@butler.edu / x9236).

Special Cases

The term "orphan work" is used to describe a situation where it is difficult or impossible to contact the copyright holder of a copyrighted work. This situation can arise for many reasons. The author could have never been publicly known because the work was published anonymously or the work may have never been published at all. Even if the author is known, the copyright may have been transferred to a relative, estate, or publisher. Nearly any work where a reasonable effort to locate the current copyright owner fails can be considered orphaned.

Should you use an orphaned work? Quite simply, you should balance your need against the potential risk of being sued by an unidentified rights holder. In addition, before using the work you might also consider these alternatives:

Fair Use

Consider the "potential market" for the work in question, and the possible harm to that market caused by your use of the work. If you discover that there is no way to acquire the proper permissions, you should reevaluate the fourth factor in the fair use analysis. You may find that this factor now weighs in favor of fair use. For more information, see Fair Use.

Locate Alternatives

Can you locate a similar source with an identifiable copyright holder? If so then contact that rights holder and seek out the appropriate permissions. Or, you might also be able to locate an equivalent source that is in the public domain. 

Rethink Your Intended Use

Rather than use the entire work can you cite a small portion of the work or even paraphrase relevant points? Relying on quotations, paraphrasing, and proper citation methods can often help you avoid the copyright permissions process altogether.

Some Suggested Resources

According to the U.S. Copyright Office:

"There is no such thing as an “international copyright” that will automatically protect an author’s writings throughout the world. Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends on the national laws of that country."

Copyright questions that pertain to works created in other countries are notoriously difficult to research. This is largely due to the fact that each country has different laws; and, in some cases, different languages.

In an effort to provide some clarity, many countries have joined the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. The Berne Convention was first adopted in 1886 as an agreement to honor the rights of all authors who are citizens of countries that  have joined the convention.

For a summary of the rights provided by the Berne Convention, please see the UK Copyright Service Fact Sheet.

First Step

If you plan to reproduce a significant portion of an author's work, your first step in any country is to locate the rights holder of the work in question and ask for permission. For additional information on this process, please see the Columbia University Copyright Advisory Office page.

Before embarking on an international copyright permissions project, please consider these alternatives:

Fair Use

  • You may be able to use a portion of the work in question by claiming fair use. However, be aware that each country's definition of what constitutes fair use may differ from U.S. law. For more information see the UK Copyright Service Fact Sheet on fair use.

Locate Alternatives

  • Can you locate a similar U.S. source with an identifiable copyright holder? If so then contact that rights holder and seek out the appropriate permissions. Or, you might also be able to locate an equivalent source that is in the public domain. 

Rethink Your Intended Use

  • Rather than use the entire work can you cite a small portion of the work or even paraphrase relevant points? Relying on quotations, paraphrasing, and proper citation methods can often help you avoid the copyright permissions process altogether.
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