Brown University Copyright and Fair Use

Brown University
 Getting Permission

This overview provides a basic understanding of copyright and permission: when it's required, how it works, and how to request it.

When and why is permission required?

Under US Copyright law, unless a particular use is covered by fair use you need to get permission from the copyright holder in order to use copyrighted materials. A few important points to remember:

  • Most uses of copyright material require permission (or licenses). Fair use is the exception.

  • Out-of-print does not mean out of copyright: under current US law, copyright lasts for 70 years after the author's or editor's death. The accompanying chart provides a more detailed summary of when works enter the public domain.

  • Public domain works do not require permission. Works in the public domain include federal government documents, and works published before 1923.

How do I get permission

Materials in different media (print, audio-visual, digital) are governed by different kinds of specific rules and limitations on how they may be used and copied. We provide here detailed information on the various media types:

  • Digital publications to which Brown has a license: Brown purchases digital collections (including research databases, online journals, and similar resources) which allow for certain kinds of use within the university. These are governed by licenses which specify what kinds of uses are permitted.

  • Musical performances: Brown negotiates rights to musical performances through the major performing rights societies, which are detailed here.

  • Published materials to which Brown does not own a license: For all materials which are published in print, or published online without a specific license, normal copyright rules apply, and you need to get permission to use them in any manner that exceeds fair use.

  • Coursepacks: Graphic Services will secure copyright permission as well as produce a course packet of published material that will be sold at the Brown Bookstore along with other course textbooks. Complete coursepack services are detailed here.

  • Audio-visual materials: There are a number of special rules governing the performance and display of audio-visual materials (including film, video, and audio), which are detailed here.

In addition, you can get help with permissions at Graphic Services, which can advise on contacting copyright holders and other issues.