Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City

Copyright Policy

Libraries, universities and others can use portions of copyrighted works without paying fees or incurring copyright violations under "Fair Use." Fair Use requires that you meet four conditions. If you fail to meet even one of the conditions, you cannot use the copyrighted work with out either the permission of the publisher or payment of copyright fees. However, there are no hard and fast rules about what constitutes Fair Use or how the four tests for Fair Use are applied. In short copyright law and Fair Use are fairly vague and unclear in many ways. This information sheet is meant to provide only a brief introduction to the area and provide additional resources for you to learn more about copyright and Fair Use.


The four tests for Fair Use are:

  • How will the material be used?
    Use of copyrighted materials in an academic setting generally (but not always) meets this test.

  • What is the nature of the work to be used?
    Is it readily available published material? Is it factual in nature? If so, you probably meet this requirement.

  • How much of the work will you use?
    The generally accepted limit for books is 20%, 1 chapter, or 50 pages which ever comes first; other types of media (poetry, audio visual material, etc.) have different limits

  • What monetary effect would this use have on the publisher or copyright holder?
    How much of an impact will your Fair Use of material cost the copyright holder? It is this factor that leads to the time limits imposed by libraries on Reserve materials. Using the material for one year (the commonly accepted time limit) or three semesters may not have a major impact on copyright owed to the publisher where using the material year after year certainly may.


Seem confusing? You are not alone. The laws in this area are complicated and have many vague, undefined portions. Last year Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the first major upgrade of copyright laws in several years which added several new limits on uses of copyrighted works.


There are several excellent websites and books that will provide much more in-depth discussions as well as information on other areas of copyright and education, such as incorporating multimedia and distance education.


One of the best is created by the University of Texas legal team for their faculty and staff. There is a crash course section and in-depth sections for virtually every type of media or situation found in the college environment. Click here


Stanford University maintains a website of links to many sites dealing with copyright issues in education. Click here


The Federal government maintains the United States Copyright Office through the Library of Congress. In addition to legislation, the site provides general information and a What's New section. Click here


The Association of Research Libraries maintains a nice set of links to articles, legislative, academic and case law sites dealing with copyright issues.Click here


And for those who prefer print to online, check out Copyright Essentials for Librarians and Educators by Kenneth Crews. Published by the American Library Association, Copyright Essentials summarizes Dr. Crew's popular Online Copyright Tutorial. REF 346.7304 C74C 2000


If you do not meet the Fair Use requirements, you can contact the publisher for permission to use the work or pay a copyright fee - usually through a licensing organization such as the Copyright Clearance Center who handles the paperwork and payments for you. If you need assistance, please ask at the Circulation Desk or the Reference Desk.


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