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Copyright Guidelines

Intellectual Property Rights and Fair Use rules of thumb for Humanities Faculty entering the Web
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The following is a list of rules of thumb for your use in determining how you may incorporate digital, visual, and textual material from and onto the Internet, and, in turn, how others may or may not use your online material. This is a complicated subject. Our aim here is to adapt those segments most applicable to your own requirements with a basic, practical approach. While we point out some of the potential risks of incorporating material from and onto the Web, it is above all our intent to encourage you to take advantage of the wealth of material available to you in the electronic environment.

First, what is fair use? Although there is no simple test to determine what fair use is, the Copyright Act sets forth four fair use factors to determine whether use is indeed "fair." They 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
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

We strongly urge you to look at our detailed explanation of the four factors in our section on Fair Use Factors in Detail.

We have divided our guidelines in the following way:

  1. General rules of thumb
  2. Rules of thumb for text
  3. Rules of thumb for images
  4. Rules of thumb for multimedia
  5. Rules of thumb for music
  6. Glossary
  7. Bibliography
  8. Internet Sources
  9. Legislation and Case Law \ Fair use factors

We will try to keep this document a work in progress by amending it from time to time (last updated 9/1/04). Any new information you come upon that will help to delete or add to the above is always welcome.  If you have specific questions, you may also consult the American Library Association's new Copyright Advisory Network, where you may post questions directly to their Network Forums and get answers right away.

Our rules of thumb (aka FAQs--frequently asked questions) are intended as a practical reference guide. As stated above, copyright and intellectual property rights law is complex and often ambiguous. We urge you to check the attached bibliography and/or seek legal advice for your specific circumstances. We will help guide you in the right direction with your special requests. However--here is our friendly disclaimer--the information provided here is for informational purposes only. Intellectual property and copyright are continually debated in Congress, and new legislation may change practical recommendations at any time. Common sense and conventional wisdom do not necessarily have the force of law behind them, but may be used as practical guidelines. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the University of California. The following guidelines are provided for educational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice.


Maureen Burns, Curator, Visual Resources Collection

Barbara Cohen, Director, HumaniTech


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