Brown University Copyright and Fair Use

Brown University
 Resources for consultants and support staff

Brown's consultants and support staff are in a special position with respect to copyright and fair use. Very often they are the ones working most directly with copyrighted materials: whether in making copies of a course pack, putting materials on reserve, assisting with the creation of a course web site, or creating a digital collection or project. If you're working in this capacity, it's important not only that you understand the restrictions imposed by copyright, but also that you know where to turn in situations of uncertainty. This pageprovides some information and guidance, as well as contacts for further information.

Here are some important points to bear in mind:

  • Fair use may apply in many situations, such as course web sites, course reserves, and course packs. In cases where fair use applies, permission to use materials is not required. You can use a fair use checklist to determine whether fair use applies in specific cases, or encourage the faculty member you're working with to do so.

  • Materials which are in the public domain may also be used without permission or royalty fee. Works in the public domain include federal government documents and works published before 1923. The accompanying chart provides a more detailed summary of when works enter the public domain.

  • To use or reproduce any materials which are not in the public domain and are not covered by fair use, permission must first be obtained from the copyright holder. For course materials or materials being used in a faculty project, it is the responsibility of the faculty member to obtain permission. The faculty member is also responsible for paying any royalty fees that may be charged.

In some cases, support staff who are working on course packs or course web sites may wish to use the accountability statement to clarify their role in working with copyrighted material. When in doubt about whether a particular activity (copying a book or image, using audio-visual materials, etc.) is consistent with Brown's policies, staff should seek guidance from a supervisor, or from one of the University's contacts on copyright and fair use.