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Copyright, Fair Use & the Creative Commons  

This guide provides students, faculty and staff information and resources for copyright, fair use and the Creative Commons.
Last Updated: Mar 24, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Using this Guide

This guide is available to assist Stony Brook University students, faculty, and staff answer copyright and related rights issues. All members of the Stony Brook University community must be aware of and adhere to the provisions of the United States Copyright Law. We have an obligation to honor and abide by copyright rules when we use protected works in support of the academic mission. This guide does not supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.

  • The Exceptions for Instructors eTool will help instructors determine fair use of copyrighted works.
  • The Fair Use Evaluator can help you better understand how to determine the "fairness" of a use under the U.S. Copyright Code, provides documentation of your evaluation, and links you to additional educational material.
  • The Digital Copyright Slider is available as a quick guide to answer copyright questions.
  • The Section 108 Spinner is another online tool helpful in making determiniations about whether reproductions by libraries, archives, and museums can be made for educational or preservation use without the permission of the copyright holder.

Related Guides

Need copyright friendly resources? We've got a guide for those! Whether you need photos, music, or video, the sources here will lead you to work that is appropriate for scholarly or creative use.

Copyright Friendly Resources
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Citations & Plagiarism
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What is Copyright?

What is copyright? A copyright grants to its owner the right to control an intellectual or artistic creation, including the right to profit from others using the work in specific ways without permission or from the sale and performance of the work. Copyright protection extends not only to copies of the written word and recordings of sound, but to visual images such as photographs, animated images, motion pictures, or videotapes. It also includes taped live performances.

For more details on the University Libraries and Stony Brook University copyright policies, follow the links below:

University Libraries Copyright Policies and Guidelines for Course Reserves

Office of the Provost - Copyright Protection

Office of the Provost - Fair Use and Copyright Protection for Digital Media


What is Fair Use?

What is fair use? Fair use is a legal principle that provides certain limitations on copyrighted materials. It is important to realize that there are no bright lines and assessment of whether or not an intended use is a fair use requires a thoughtful analysis of the context and intentions that underlie that use. As illustrative examples, under fair use, a teacher or researcher is allowed a rather limited amount of copying without the copyright owner’s permission for such purposes as: 1) criticism, 2) comment, 3) news reporting, or 4) teaching. These are not the only potential fair uses, but they do apply to many of the activities in which faculty engage.


What is the Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.

Creative Commons free, easy-to-use copyright licenses provide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work — on conditions of your choice. CC licenses let you easily change your copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.”

Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright and enable you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs.

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Darren Chase, MLIS
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