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Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Resources

Below you’ll find suggested online and print resources for information on copyright and other intellectual property issues. The resources found on this page are not meant to offer legal advice but rather to guide and inform as you investigate copyright and other intellectual property concerns.

General-Interest Resources

Copyright Basics (Circular 1 from the U.S. Copyright Office)

Although detailed, this guide provides basic information on the legal concept of copyright, focusing on U.S. copyright law. The guide defines terminology, explains who can claim copyright, relates which works are protected and which are not under copyright, plus many other key points to help better understand copyright and author’s rights.

Office of General Counsel, University of Pittsburgh

The Office of the General Counsel (OGC) of the University of Pittsburgh provides legal services and advice to the Pitt community. OGC services include reviewing and preparing university contracts and agreements, representing the university in legal proceedings, and providing legal advice to the university community.

U.S. Copyright Office

The official website for U.S. Copyright Law provides the full text of the nation’s copyright law, news on proposed copyright legislation, basic information (including circulars and forms) on copyright, and answers to frequently asked questions.

You can also search copyright records and learn how to register the copyright for a work you’ve created.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

This portal to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office provides resources for patents, trademarks, intellectual property law and policy, and much more.

Here you can do patent and trademark searches; find information for inventors, musicians, and artists; and get answers to frequently asked questions about patents, trademarks, and other industrial property topics.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

WIPO is an agency of the United Nations focused on international and transnational copyright and other intellectual property issues and policies. 

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Law and Policy

University of Pittsburgh Policies

Pitt Policies on Copyright and Intellectual Property

This page links to additional Pitt policies on copyright and intellectual property. Here you’ll find information about patent rights; the use of university names, logos, and trademarks; a checklist for Pitt webpages; and guidelines on research data management at Pitt.

University of Pittsburgh Copyrights Policy

This policy explains the University of Pittsburgh copyright policy and those affected and covered by it.

U.S. Law and Policy

A U.S. government resource provided via the Library of Congress, lets you search federal legislation, such as the full text of bills, congressional committee activities, votes, and more. You can find more information about copyright and other intellectual property legislation by doing a quick keyword search on "copyright" or "intellectual property." You can do an advanced search using the legislative subject term "intellectual property" to retrieve relevant federal legislation.

Copyright Law of the United States: And Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code

The complete version of the U.S. Copyright Law, Title 17 of the U.S. Code.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) (1998)

An amendment to U.S. copyright law, passed in 1998, that sought to address copyright concerns in the digital environment. Among its many provisions, the DMCA prohibited the circumvention of digital rights management (DRM) technologies that control access to copyrighted works.

The text of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is incorporated into Appendix B of the U.S. Copyright Law.

Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act (2002)

TEACH redefines the terms and conditions on which accredited, nonprofit educational institutions throughout the U.S. may use copyright protected materials in distance education – including on websites and by other digital means – without permission from the copyright owner and without payment of royalties.

Now included in Title 17, Section 110, of the U.S. Copyright Law.

U.S. Copyright Office: Copyright Legislation

From the U.S. Copyright Office, this site lists legislation pending, previously considered, or made into law by the U.S. Congress.

International and Non-U.S. Law and Policy

Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works

Here you’ll find the full text of the International Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. Also known as the Berne Convention, this is an international agreement wherein member countries guarantee the protections of rights granted to its own nationals to creators who originally published in a different country.

World Copyright Terms

Public Domain Day provides this useful worldwide map indicating the length of copyright terms for different countries.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Administered Treaties

WIPO administers 26 intellectual property, global protection, and classification treaties. The list with links to the treaties is available from this site.

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News and Current Awareness Resources

Copyright Advisory Office Blog (Columbia University Libraries)

The Columbia University Libraries maintains this blog about current events and cases in copyright.

Copyright Librarian

Nancy Sims, a copyright librarian and lawyer at the University of Minnesota Libraries, blogs about current events in copyright law, scholarship, communication, and issues in higher education.

Direct Dispatch: ALA Washington Office Blog

This blog from the American Library Association’s Washington Office discusses current events and issues in copyright legislation.

IPEC: What’s New

News and information from the Office of the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC), part of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

Kip Currier Copyright and “Open” Movements Blog

Written by Pitt School of Information Sciences professor and lawyer Kip Currier, PhD, JD. Dr. Currier gathers and comments on current happenings in copyright, open access, open data, open education, fair use, and more.


The SPARC Blog discusses in longer form current happenings in Open Access, scholarly communication and publishing, legislation and policy development, and copyright, among others.

SPARC News & Media

The SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources) news site covers U.S. and international developments in Open Access, scholarly communication and publishing, and copyright legislation and policy, among others.

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Beyond Copyright

Creative Commons

Creative Commons enables creators to apply copyright terms to their works in a way that allows creators to give others a way to use, build upon, and share creative works while still getting credit. There are multiple licenses that can be applied which make the content of works more compatible with the activities and communication on the Internet.

Copyleft (from the Free Software Foundation)

Copyleft creates a method for making a software program or other work free, with the caveat that all other versions of that program are to be free as well. This ensures that the software will not become proprietary and that changes and modifications can be made to software.

The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More

Authored by lawyer and copyright expert Stephen Fishman, this book describes everything from art to choreography that can be found in the public domain, including how to find whether it is in the public domain and what to do with international works.

SPARC Author Addendum for Author Rights

Developed by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), the Author Addendum is designed to help authors secure their rights to journal articles. The addendum is a legal tool used by authors to modify the publisher agreement, allowing them to keep key rights to their articles (such as archiving, redistribution, and more).

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Fair Use

U.S. Copyright Office: Factsheet on Fair Use

The basics on the "doctrine" or legal concept of fair use in U.S. copyright law.

Building on Others' Creative Expression: Fair Use of Copyright Materials (University of Texas)

Part of the University of Texas Libraries' Copyright Crash Course, this resource provides more detailed information about the doctrine of fair use and how to apply its principles to works that you want to use. One excellent point that it makes is that some works--such as many U.S. government publications, works in the public domain, facts, and idea--are not protected under copyright law, so you may already able to use them.

Learn More about Fair Use (Fair Use Evaluator from the American Library Association)

In addition to providing an online tool to help you with determining fair use, this resource also provides a special information section to help you "learn more about fair use." 

Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians (Circular 21) (U.S. Copyright Office)

This circular from the U.S. Copyright Office provides some guidelines and definitions on the amount of a work teachers can copy without permission under fair use. (See the section titled “Agreement on Guidelines for Classroom Copying in Not-For-Profit Educational Institutions With Respect to Books and Periodicals.”)

Keep in mind these guidelines are aimed at educators and librarians, but they may provide a good rule of thumb for others using copyrighted materials.

What Is Fair Use? (University Library System, University of Pittsburgh)

A quick guide to the four factors of fair use. The guide highlights common concerns, issues to consider, and misconceptions that often arise while trying to determine whether use of copyrighted materials is a fair one.

Online Tools to Help Determine Fair Use 

Fair Use Evaluator (American Library Association)

An online tool designed to help you better understand how to determine the fair use of copyrighted materials under U.S. law.

Thinking Through Fair Use (University of Minnesota)

An online tool for--you guessed it!--helping you think through whether your intended use of copyrighted material is fair, according to U.S. copyright law. This tool doesn't give you a yes or no answer or provide legal advice; instead, it helps you organize your thoughts so that you can decide whether your use is fair or whether you need to seek permission to use a copyrighted work.

Fair Use Checklist (Columbia University)

A checklist that you can print out (it's a PDF) and then answer questions to help you determine whether your use of copyrighted materials is fair under U.S. law.

Using the Four Factor Fair Use Test (University of Texas)

Part of the University of Texas Libraries' Copyright Crash Course, this quick guide walks you through the things to consider when making a fair use defense of a copyrighted work.

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Copyright and Public Domain Status

Duration of Copyright (Title 17, Chapter 3, Copyright Law of the United States of America)

The law itself speaks (in intricate detail) about how long copyright protection lasts in the U.S.

How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work (Circular 22) (U.S. Copyright Office)

A handy guide from the U.S. Copyright Office

Search Copyright Information (U.S. Copyright Office)

A searchable database of works registered and documents recorded by the U.S. Copyright Office since January 1, 1978. Keep in mind that under U.S. law, a work does not have to be registered or include a copyright notice to be consider copyrighted.

Is It Protected by Copyright? (American Library Association)

Also known as the Digital Copyright Slider, this online tool from the American Library Association helps you determine the copyright and public domain status of works published in the United States.

When U.S. Works Pass into the Public Domain (University of North Carolina)

An easy-to-read information table that may help you determine the copyright or public domain status of a work.

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Reusable Works (Works in the Public Domain, Copyright-Free, or with Copyright-Flexible Licenses)

Creative Commons Search

In addition to providing licenses that allow more flexible use of works, this Creative Commons page provides quick links to resources for copyright-free, copyright-flexible, and Creative Commons-licensed works, including images, videos, music, and other media.

Google Advanced Image Search

You can search for images that have been licensed or labeled for reuse, filtering your search by "usage rights."

Library of Congress Collections

Many of the images, maps,  documents, and video and audio recordings available online from the Library of Congress (sometimes referred to as the American Memory collections) are in the public domain or have copyright terms that allow reuse without permission. Check the individual collections and images for copyright terms.

Public Domain Image

A web resource for free public domain images, royalty-free stock photos, and copyright-friendly images.

ArtStor (available only to University of Pittsburgh)

This database offers more than 500,000 digital art images that can be used for noncommercial and scholarly, non-profit educational use.

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Copyright and Musical Works

Copyright for Music Librarians (Music Library Association)

While it's called "Copyright for Music Librarians," this site is a useful resource for anyone interested in copyright and intellectual property issues related to music and music librarianship.

Music Copyright Tutorials

These short videos introduce copyright and music, including the difference between copyright for music compositions and sound recordings. They also contain tips and resources for reusing music, collecting royalties, and working with music publishers.

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Copyright and the Visual Arts

Copy Photography Computator (Visual Resources Association)

This interactive tool is designed to help visual resource professionals assess intellectual property rights affecting the educational use of "derived images," also known as photographic reproductions. Be sure to read the Advisory Notice and the Principles and Definitions sections to better understand the issues that the computator addresses. See also Digital Image Rights Computator.

Copyright, Permissions, and Fair Use among Visual Artists and the Academic and Museum Visual Arts Communities: An Issues Report

This 2014 report to the College Art Association identifies some of the confusion and misunderstanding over copyright law and fair use that visual artists and visual arts professionals (including art historians, professors, editors, publishers, and others) experience in creating and circulating their works. This confusion may result in fear and anxiety, which may lead artists and professionals to constrain and censor themselves.

From the findings of this report, the College Art Association plans to develop a code of best practices for fair use by visual artists and visual arts professionals.

Digital Image Rights Computator (Visual Resources Association)

This interactive tool is designed to help you assess the intellectual property status of an image that documents a work of art, a designed object, or a portion of the built environment so that you can make an informed decision about the educational use of the image.

Image Collection Guidelines (Visual Resources Association)

This resource provides guidance on copyright and other intellectual property rights relating to the acquisition and use of images in non-profit educational and visual resources collections.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and Copyright (Visual Resources Association)

In addition to resources such as the Digital Image Rights Computator, the Copy Photography Computator, and the Visual Resources Association's Statement on Fair Use of Images, the Visual Resources Association provides a lengthy list of copyright and other intellectual property resources for visual artists. These include guidance on scholarly uses of images; copyright in educational settings; and information on U.S., Canadian, and international copyright laws.

IP Basics: Copyright in Visual Arts

From the University of New Hampshire School of Law, a basic analysis of key copyright issues, considerations, and U.S. law for visual artists.

Statement on the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study (Visual Resources Association)

This statement from the Visual Resources Association identifies six uses of copyrighted still images that the organization beliews fall within fair use under U.S. law.

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