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Digital Copyright Rules

Institutional Repository

Creative Commons License?


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Creative Commons helps you share your knowledge & creativity with the world.

Creative Commons licenses are a standardized way to give others permission to share and use your work -- on conditions of your choice. You retain copyright of your work while allowing others to make limited use.

Choose a License

Learn more:

What is copyright?


Copyright is a form of legal protection that provides authors of original creative works with limited control over the reproduction and distribution of their work. It gives copyright holders a set of exclusive rights to

  • reproduce the work, in whole or in part
  • distribute copies of the work
  • publicly perform the work
  • publicly display the work
  • prepare derivative works based on the original, such as translations or adaptations

These rights are subject to exceptions and limitations, such as "fair use," which allow limited uses of works without the permission of the copyright holder.

What copyright protect?


Copyright protects "original works of authorship." To be protected by copyright, a work must be original and recorded. It cannot be copied or expressed without being recorded.

Types of works protected by copyright include:

  • literary works
  • musical works
  • dramatic works
  • choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works

What is not protected by copyright?

  • facts or ideas
  • titles, names, short phrases, or slogans
  • procedures, methods, systems or processes
  • works of the United States government
  • works that have passed into the public domain

What does this mean for you as an author?

You do not need to register your work to have copyright over it, once you create a work in tangible form you have the rights to it. You have a right to control:

  • where your work is published
  • who has access
  • whether and how it can be re-used

However, you should note that adding a copyright notice, creative commons license (thought this allows for copying of work with attribution), or registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office is a smart move to make.

Effectively managing your rights as a copyright owner can help you to maximize the impact of your research and scholarship.




Below is a basic introduction to U.S. copyright law -- what it protects, how long it lasts, the rights it grants to authors, and its exceptions and limitations.

You will find further information on:

  • understanding and applying Fair Use
  • determining when you need permission to use copyrighted works and how to get it
  • managing your own copyrights and understanding your rights as an author



Fair Use?


In order to balance the interests of the creators of copyrighted works with the public's ability to benefit from those works, copyright law includes the exemption of Fair Use

Fair use allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission for purposes such as criticism, parody, news reporting, research and scholarship, and teaching.

However, just because a use is educational does not mean that it automatically qualifies as fair use. When using content for certain purposes it is important to consider copyright and if you might be infringing on it.


Copyright Works Pass Into Public Domain

Common Knowledge


CommonKnowledge Copyright Policies

Rights and Terms of Use for Material Posted in CommonKnowledge

These terms of use apply to any works without a Creative Commons license (see below).

For previously published works (journal articles, book chapters, etc.) for which the publisher retains copyright, permission has been granted (where necessary) to post this Material on CommonKnowledge. For any use which exceeds personal use, permission may be required by the copyright owner of the Material (see "Comments" section in the Material record).

For theses, dissertations, or other previously unpublished scholarly or creative works, the right to download or print any portion of this Material is granted by the copyright owner only for personal or educational use. The author/creator retains all proprietary rights, including copyright ownership. Any editing, other reproduction or other use of this Material by any means requires the express written permission of the copyright owner.

Except as provided above, or for any other use that is allowed by fair use (Title 17, §107 U.S.C.), you may not reproduce, republish, post, transmit or distribute any Material from this web site in any physical or digital form without the permission of the copyright owner of the Material.

Creative Commons-Licensed Works Posted in CommonKnowledge

For works posted in CommonKnowledge that display a Creative Commons license in their record and/or on the work itself, the use of that work is governed by the terms of the license selected by the content creator.

For more information about Creative Commons licenses, or to license your own work, please visit

Copyright Guide


Public Domain

Works that are in the public domain in the U.S. are not protected by copyright because

  1. The author dedicated them to public use
  2. The copyright term has expired without renewal
  3. The work is of a type that does not qualify for copyright protection

You can use any U.S. work in the public domain in any way that you want, as much as you want. They belong to the public. Keep in mind, however, that the requirements for public domain vary by country.

There are several great resources for finding and accessing materials in the public domain:

How can I tell if a work is still under copyright?


Depending upon when a work was created, it is subject to different requirements regarding copyright notice and registration, as well as different copyright terms. 

For example, before 1978 U.S. law required that works be published with a notice of copyright to receive protection. Failure to comply with this requirement would result in the work being in the public domain.

Copyright Term and the Public Domain, a guide to copyright duration created by Peter Hirtle at Cornell University, is a comprehensive and useful resource for researching a work's copyright status. You can also use the Copyright Slider from the American Library Association for quick reference.

As a general rule, works registered or published in the U.S. before 1923 are in the public domain.

John B. Coleman Library
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 519, MS 1040, Prairie View, Texas 77446
Physical Address: L.W. Minor St. / University Drive, Prairie View, Texas 77446
Reference: (936) 261-1535, Circulation: (936) 261-1542

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