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Copyright & Fair Use: Home

What are you allowed to copy; how much of a work can you use?

What is Copyright

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) to authors. The owner of copyright has the exclusive right to do and authorize the following:

  • To reproduce the work;
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
  • To distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  • To prohibit other persons from using the work without permission;
  • To perform the work publicly.

Copyright protection covers both published and unpublished works as well as out-of-print materials. 

Facts, ideas, procedures, processes, systems, concepts, principles or discoveries cannot be copyrighted.  However, some of these can be protected by patent or trade secret laws.

Copyright protection currently lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.  If there is more than one author copyright protection lasts for the life of the last author's death plus 70 years.  Copyright protection for materials created by a business may last for 95 years from publication.  

Memorandum on Copyright Law and Compliance was written for the University of Nebraska four campuses. It is the responsibility of all faculty, staff, and students to abide by the guidelines presented and utilize the Fair Use Checklist to ascertain if copyrighted materials are being used "fairly" for education and research purposes. Click on Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States for more information. 

What is Fair Use?

Under the “fair use” rule of copyright law, an author may make limited use of another author’s work without asking permission. However, “fair use” is open to interpretation. Fair use is intended to support teaching, research, and scholarship, but educational purpose alone does not make every use of a work fair. 


It is always important for an instructor to analyze how he or she will use a particular work to ascertain if their use will qualify under the "fair use" rule of copyright law. 

  1. What is your purpose in using the material? Are you going to use the material for monetary gain or for education or research purposes?
  2. What is the characteristic nature of work – is it fact or fiction; has it been published or not?
  3. How much of the work are you going to use? Small amount or large? Is it the significant or central part of the work?
  4. How will your use of the work effect the author’s or the publisher’s ability to sell the material? If your purpose is for research or education, your effect on the market value may be difficult to prove. However, if your purpose is commercial gain, then you are not following fair use.

U.S. Copyright Office provides a fact sheet

“It’s important to understand that these aforementioned factors are only guidelines that courts are free to adapt to particular situations on a case by case basis. In other words, a judge has a great deal of freedom when making a fair use determination.” [1]

If you plan to incorporate copyrighted works into your course ask yourselves these two questions:

  • Has the material you have taken from the original copyrighted work been transformed by adding new expression or meaning (or did it just repeat the work for the same intent and value as the original). [1;2]


  • Was value added to the original by creating new information, new aesthetics, new insights, and understandings? (ex: satire). [2]

If your answers are "No" then the "fair use" rule will most likely not apply; so, if you want to show, share, or require students use copyrighted materials you should contact the library: Sally Bryant:

[1] Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries. 

[2] Stim, Richard, "Measuring Fair Use: The Four Factors." Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Center. Stanford University Libraries, 10 Apr. 2017. Web. 02 May 2017.

Further Reading

Personal Research & Sharing Your Work

Some things to consider about sharing articles. 

Your publishers want you to share responsibly; which requires knowing what you may share and where (which is not the same for every publication). 

  • Sharing DOI links is easy and usually, has no restrictions.
  • Sharing a full-text publication (e.g., posting a PDF) gets tricky and sharing ability will vary.

Open Access label indicates you can share according to the end user license:

  • CC-BY licensed articles may be shared with anyone, on any platform, and via any communication channel.
  • CC-BY-NC-ND licensed articles may be shared on non-commercial platforms only.


Copyright Rules for Pepperdine University's Digital Repository


All materials in these digitized collections are publically accessible and intended for educational and research use, and may be used as such with appropriate attribution. However, organizations and individuals seeking to use digital materials for publication must contact Pepperdine University Libraries Special Collections and University Archives. Such parties furthermore assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants of copyright.

Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Pepperdine University has exhaustively researched the contents of these digital collections to ascertain any possible legal rights embodied in the materials. In cases where copyright holders could not be reached or identified, the materials are provided here under an assertion of fair use (17 U.S.C. 107). We are eager to hear from any copyright owners who are not properly identified so that the appropriate information may be provided in the future. Upon request, we will remove material from public view while we address a rights issue.

Guidelines for Fair Use

Guidelines for Print Materials:

  • Single Chapter from a book
  • A single article from a journal issue or newspaper
  • A short story, essay, or poem from an individual work.
  • A chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture from a book, journal, or newspaper.

Guidelines for Using Multi-Media

Multimedia works are created by combining copyrighted media elements such as motion media, music, other sounds, graphics, and text. It is recommended that you use only small portions of other people's works.

What is considered a small portion?

  • Motion media: Up to 10% or three minutes, whichever is less.
  • Text: Up to 10% or 1,000 words, whichever is less. (The limits on poetry are more restrictive.)
  • Music: Up to 10% of an individual copyrighted musical composition, or up to 10% of a copyrighted musical composition embodied on a sound recording. However, no more than 30 seconds may be used without gaining permission from the copyright owner or licensing collective.
  • Illustrations and photos: Under the guidelines, "a photograph or illustration may be used in its entirety, but no more than five images by one artist or photographer may be incorporated into any one multimedia program. From a published collective work, not more than 10% or 15 images, whichever is less, may be used."
  • Numerical Data Sets: Up to 10% or 2,5000 fields or cell entries, whichever is less.

The following guidelines allow you to use multimedia without permission of lawfully acquired copyrighted works.

  • You may incorporate portions of copyrighted works when creating your own multimedia projects for educational or instructional (not commercial) purposes.
    • Students may incorporate "portions" of copyrighted materials for a project in a specific course.
    • Students may display their own projects, use them in their portfolio, use the project for a job interview or as supporting materials in an application for school.
    • Faculty may use their projects for class assignments, curriculum materials, remote instruction, for conferences, presentations, or workshops, or for their professional portfolio.
  • Give attribution to the original source of all copyrighted material used.
  • Place a copyright notice on the opening screen of the multimedia program and accompanying print material that "certain materials are included under fair use exemption of the U.S. Copyright Law...and are restricted from further use."
  • Fair use of the copyrighted materials expires at the end of two years. To use the project again you need to obtain permission.

Guidelines for Images

Fair Use Guidelines For Digital Images provides useful information for assessing fair use of digital images.

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media

The Center for Social Media in the School of Communication at American University, the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property in American University Washington College of Law, and the Media Education Lab of Temple University are conducting a project 2007-2009 to clarify fair use in media education, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. This project will help media literacy educators understand their rights under the doctrine of fair use in order to help them more effectively use media as an essential part of their teaching.