Brown University Copyright and Fair Use

Brown University
 "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries"
—U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8

Brown's Policy (See also statement regarding "Use of Electronic Resources and Software Applications")

Brown University expects that all members of the University community respect the rights of ownership of intellectual property by adhering to United States copyright laws. The principle of fair use as set forth in the copyright act provides essential limitations to the exclusive rights of copyright owners that support the University's mission of teaching, scholarship, research, and free inquiry. In an effort to balance copyright law with fair use principles, Brown University is committed to providing tools and resources to the University community to assist decision-making in this complex environment.

Understanding Copyright and Fair Use

The principle of copyright is derived from the US Constitution in fulfillment of Congress' right "to promote the progress of science and the useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive rights to their writings and discoveries" (Article 1, section 8). This emphasis on the progress that results from publication, and the limitation of the term of ownership, are important to remember. Copyright laws serve to protect the rights of copyright holders in their works while allowing unfettered access to such works under particular circumstances.

The limitation of fair use provides exceptions to the rights of copyright holders in certain cases, allowing people to use portions of works for non-profit, academic, and other purposes provided those uses stay within certain bounds. The following links can help you understand the principles of fair use and determine when and whether you may use copyrighted material without getting permission first.

Principles of fair use: Four basic factors and a checklist to help you determine whether you're covered

Glossary: Basic definitions of important terms

More information: Links to legislation, web resources, and articles on fair use and copyright

Licensing and Permission

As an institution, Brown negotiates rights to use a wide variety of materials, including digital publications, musical performances, image collections, and more. In addition, most media are governed by specific guidelines which govern what users may do. If you want to use copyrighted materials in ways that go beyond fair use or applicable copyright law, you'll need to request permission to do so. The following links will help you find out what uses are permitted under Brown licenses and other rules, and how to get permission for other uses if you need it.

Licensing and permission basics

For textual materials

For Brown's digital collections

For audio-visual materials

For musical performances

Sample letter requesting permission to use copyrighted material

Practical Guidance

Resources for teaching: Information on managing course packs, multimedia in teaching, digital course materials

Resources for students: Information for students on using copyrighted materials

Resources for consultants and support staff: Information for those who may be working on someone else's behalf (making copies or course packs, creating digital content, building web sites, etc.)

Getting permission: Information on license provisions and getting permission for textual materials, recorded music, audio-visual media, still images, and digital materials.

Frequently Asked Questions

Find out quick answers to urgent questions

Where to go and whom to ask for help