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Recognizing the sometimes complicated world of fair use and copyright, Digital Scholarship offers resources and advice on the considerations involved with disseminating and protecting your work. We strive to stay current with the changes within the field to better advise and assist you in making informed decisions about how you choose to share your work with the world. 

RIT Libraries takes multiple approaches to the application and understanding of US Copyright Law. This includes pedagogical, theoretical, and practical uses of copyright and Fair Use. The Digital Scholarship department focuses on the application of copyright in regard to sharing faculty research and using copyrighted materials in digital projects. 

Digital Projects Copyright Policy

As per United States Copyright Law, the RIT Libraries is authorized to provide reproductions of copyright-protected works for the use of private study, scholarship, or research. For uses beyond this, written permission from the copyright holder(s) is required. Usage that requires copyright permission includes reproduction, distribution, publication, public performance, and public display. This includes publication and distribution via print or electronic mediums. It is the user’s responsibility to:

  1. obtain written permission from the copyright holder(s), or
  2. determine if Fair Use applies, or
  3. determine if the work has passed into the public domain.

RIT Libraries does not accept any responsibility for copyright violations and the user assumes sole risk of copyright infringement. 

In order to proceed with digial projects with RIT Libraries, please sign the below form to indicate understanding of this policy. 

RIT Libraries Copyright Acknowledgement Form

Fair Use

Fair Use is defined in Section 107 of US Copyright Act. The factors considered when determining Fair Use are: 

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

While it is important to consider how the intended use of a copyrighted work fits into these factors, they very much rely on the context of each individual case. There are no specific rules that state whether a certain usage counts as Fair Use or not (for example, "using only 20%" of a copyrighted work). This can only be definitively proven in a court of law. The most that can be done is to perform a Fair Use analysis and to document the findings of that analysis. To assist in this process, please see the below form: 

RIT Libraries Fair Use Analysis Form 

Note that this does not count as a legal document and completion of this form does not guarantee Fair Use. 

Self-Archiving and Copyright 

When publishing scholarly articles and other work, copyright is often transferred to the publisher. While this limits an author’s ability to post the final product online, many publishers have what is known as a “self-archiving” policy, which refers to uploading a version of the work to the author’s own website, an institutional repository, or a pre-print server. Typically, this will not be the final, published version of the paper, but an earlier draft such as the pre-print (pre-peer review) or the post-print (post-peer review). 

The SHERPA/RoMEO database is an easy way to search the self-archiving policies of a number of publishers. Publishers may also list this on their websites or in the publication agreement. 

Copyright Resources