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Copyright & Fair Use for Faculty

Copyright and fair use for education is complicated. Try our interactive tools to find out if the work you want to use is protected under copyright, fair use or educational exceptions.

Copyright & Fair Use


Copyright laws protect authors, publishers, musicians, artists and others from having their work stolen or misused. Copying a song, a book or an image without permission is not legal. However, there are exceptions, which brings us to fair use.

Fair use exceptions were designed with education in mind. Fair use says that as a researcher or educator you can copy sources for your own use or use in class when used for educational purposes--with limits.

Length of Copyright

TipThis brief explanation of length of copyright & publications can help you determine if an author's work might be out of copyright. Works that are out of copyright can be freely used and are frequently available online.

  • Works Published After 1978
    Life of the author + 70 years.
  • Works Published 1923-1978
    95 years from date of publication.
  • Works Published Before 1923
    All in the public domain.

Can You Use it?

Copyright and fair use are complicated. You can get started with our handy What You Can Do chart. 

  • If it is not protected by copyright, you can use it. Not sure? Try Is it Copyrighted?  
  • If it is protected by copyright, you still might be able to use it under Fair Use or Educational Exceptions. Note sure? Try Is it Fair Use? or Is it an Educational Exception?
  • If it is not allowed under Fair Use or Educational Exceptions, you still might be able ot use it if you can get permission from the copyright owner. 

Copyright FAQs for Faculty

Real questions from COM faculty answered by COM Library! Click on the question below to get the answer, or go to all Copyright & Fair Use for Faculty FAQs.


Want to ask your own Question? Ask face 2 face, email, chat or got to

And one more thing...

The information in this guide is general information and does not constitute legal advice.