Michigan State University

Copyright Guidelines

Analyzing a Copyright Problem (a Framework)*

To analyze a copyright problem, work through these 5 questions in order.  They can be complex, so if you don't know the answer to one of these, MSU's Copyright Librarian can help.  The FAQ addresses a few common cases.

  1. Is the work protected by copyright or is it in the public domain instead?   See Copyright Term & the Public Domain (from Cornell University)
  2. Is there a specific exception in copyright law that covers my use? (example:  the TEACH Act --see checklist )
  3. Is there a license that covers the terms of my use (particularly, a license that MSU has signed)?  You will probably need to ask the Copyright Librarian for specifics in these cases:
    • Electronic articles, books, and other materials from the MSU Libraries have licenses
    • MSU has signed a license with the major music licensing organizations
    • Streaming video from the MSU Libraries has licenses
    • Streaming video/YouTube/online video games all have terms of use that you must agree to (you can always look these up yourself)
  4. Is my use covered by "fair use"?  See Understanding Fair Use (from Columbia University)
  5. Do I need permission from the copyright owner for my use?  Generally, Yes, if the answers to the above do not indicate you can use the material without permission

The web page below provides some further guidelines for answering some of these questions. 

Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians (pdf)

*(Source:  From the Coursera Course Copyright for Educators and Librarians, attributed to Kevin Smith, Lisa A. Macklin, and Ann Gilliland and used under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0 International License)