How can I use copyrighted work?

There are several ways you can use copyrighted work without infringing on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner.

  • You can link to the material.  Linking to an image or public website is not copying.  While you should still cite and give attribution to the owner of the website, it is not usually required to request permission to link to a publicly available website.
  • You can request permissions from the copyright owner.  The copyright owner can be the author/creator, the author's employer, or a publisher/production company to whom the author transferred their rights.
  • You can use the work in accordance with an existing license.  For instance: 
    • 1.) The library negotiates licenses to online content that allow for classroom and reserves use. 
    • 2.)The work may be issued under a Creative Commons license where the creator has clearly established what others can do with his work.
  • Your use may fall under exceptions and limitations of copyright law, like fair use, section 108 for libraries, or the T.E.A.C.H. Act

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Tips for using copyrighted figures and images in your posters, presentations, and research

Many instances of including of previously published figures and images, or images created by others, in posters or presentations will require permissions, especially those that will be shared online.  Depending on the rights holder, permissions may be a simple email from the author, or a multi-page contract from a publisher.  If material has been issued with a Creative Commons license, then permissions have already been granted for the types of uses described in the license terms.

Other instances of including previously published figures or images created by others in posters and presentations might be done with a fair use argument instead of permissions.  Each fair use argument should take into account the four factors of fair use: 

  1. The purpose and character of the use,
  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. 

To learn more on these factors and find a worksheet to help you document your use, please see the Fair Use page on this guide (linked below).

In addition to acquiring permissions or documenting your fair use argument for using copyrighted material, every previously published figure and image, or images created by others, should be accompanied with a note that communicates to your audience the original source of the material.  Examples of such a note can be found on our Requesting Permissions page (linked below).

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