Copyright & Fair Use

Copyright is complex. We can help.

Each copyright situation is different. We encourage you to contact one of our people or departments listed below for help. Doing this will help us understand your copyright needs and provide you with the best library resources within copyright guidelines.

The information provided by University Libraries related to copyright and fair use is intended for educational purposes and does not replace legal advice from an attorney.

Digitization and Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

We provide limited scans of articles and book chapters, found in our collections or through partner libraries, to UNL students, faculty and staff.

Digitization and ILL

Course Reserves and Libraries Course Materials in Canvas

We help instructors obtain physical and digital materials for student use in courses through Course Reserves and Libraries Course Materials in Canvas.

Zach Eden

Resources for Authors

We help authors understand general copyright, fair use, licensing, permissions, public domain, and other related issues.

Sue Ann Gardner, Professor

Can I Use It?

You can use a work when your use qualifies as fair use, or in some instructional settings.

Materials Used by Instructors within Courses

Fair use is an exemption in copyright law that allows people to use works protected by copyright without obtaining permission if the use can be considered “fair.” Instructors who want to use copyrighted material in their courses should conduct a fair use analysis by considering four fair use factors:

  1. the purpose and character of the use
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work
  3. the amount and substantiality of the work being used
  4. the effect of the use on the potential market for or the value of the copyrighted work

See the U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index for additional information about fair use and the four fair use factors.

Open Educational Resources (OER) for Instructors

Open educational resources either

  • reside in the public domain
  • OR are licensed to permit their free use and repurposing by others.

OER are frequently licensed with Creative Commons licenses which exist to answer the question “What can I do with this work?” See UNL’s OER Guide for more information.

Responsible Use of Electronic Resources Policy

UNL Libraries contracts with vendors and publishers to provide patrons access to thousands of electronic resources (journals, ebooks, databases, and other online materials) costing millions of dollars per year. U.S. copyright law (including provisions for “fair use”) and contractual license agreements govern access to, use of, and reproduction of these resources. Refer to permitted and prohibited uses for general principles for responsible use of electronic resources.

Copyright, Fair Use, and Author Rights General Information

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Obtaining Permission to Use Copyrighted Material

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Is It Still in Copyright?

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Can I Get It?

The Libraries can provide materials in several different formats to get you a copy of what you need, but there are limitations.

Many of the copyright questions received concern what amount or types of materials are available for UNL Library users. The exact nature of the material and the amount needed will determine how the materials may be provided. The Libraries will first attempt to fulfill any requests with locally held collections, and if that is not possible, we will automatically forward your request to Interlibrary Loan, where it will be requested from other libraries.

Complete Items / Works
  • Entire works cannot be digitized or copied, in compliance with U.S. Copyright Law.
  • Items will be made available for pickup or delivery as requested by the user.
Book Chapters / Journal Articles / Partial Works
  • The digitization option via the Libraries’ catalog allows you to request an electronic copy of journal articles or book chapters of UNL materials.
  • The Interlibrary Loan and Delivery services allows you to request scans of journal articles and book chapters from other holding libraries.
  • Multiple book chapter requests from a single item may not be able to be filled.
  • Please request each article or book chapter separately.
Copyright Review
  • Each request will be reviewed for compliance with federal copyright guidelines.
  • You will be contacted about requests that we may not be able to fill or if your request(s) may violate copyright guidelines.
  • Royalties may be required by publishers for frequent use of newer materials.

Do I Own it?

Basic Copyright Information from the U.S. Copyright Office
Copyright: The Crash Course

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Protecting, Preserving and Promoting Your Research

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Music Copyright

This research guide is designed to be a beginning point for questions on music copyright law. It includes print and online resources owned by our library or available on the web.

Libraries Guide: Music Copyright