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How to Write a Research Paper: Copyright

Step by step description of how to write a research paper

Fair Use

Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances. Section 107 of the Copyright Act used the following four factors in evaluating a question of fair use: 

Factor 1: Purpose and Character of the Use:  

  • Work can be for education, scholarship, research, news reporting, criticism or commentary purposes. 
  • Work used for commercial purposes is discouraged.

Factor 2: Nature of the Original Work 

  • Is it has been published or not?
    • If it is not published, there is less likely a chance of it being considered fair use. 
  • Is the nature of the work more factual or creative?
    • Generally copyright law does not protect general knowledge (facts and data)

Factor 3: Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used 

  • Smaller amounts are better. 
  • Keep in mind that the amount accepted under fair use is proportional to the length of the work. 
  • Sustainability: Whether or nor you use the heart of the work or a part that is peripheral. 

Factor 4: Effect of the Use on the Potential Market for or Value of the Source Work 

  • Is the use in question substituting for a sale the sources's owner would otherwise make? Either to the person making the proposed use, or to others?

For more infromation, check out...


Copyright Scrabble

What is Copyright:

Under U.S. law, copyright protects creative works. It covers both published and unpublished works.

Examples of Creative Works: 

  • books,
  • pictures,
  • plays,
  • movies, 
  • musical compositions,
  • sound recordings, 
  • architectural works

Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, or titles. Works that are created by the government are not protected. 

Copyright owners have six specific rights under the law: 

  1. To make copies of the work.
  2. To make derivatives of the work.
  3. To distribute copies of the work. 
  4. To publicly perform the work. 
  5. To publicly display the work. 
  6. To perform the work publicly through digital audio transmission.

Please note: All creative works in the US are now protected by copyright automatically as soon as they are created. They are not required to have the copyright symbol. 

For more information go to or Cornell University Library's Copyright Information Center

Learn more About Copyright

To learn more about copyright, check out our copyright guide

UMary Copyright Infringement Policy 

Permission to use copyrighted materials

You will need permission to use a work when it is used... 

  • for commercial purposes 
  • repeatedly 
  • in its entirely or longer than 2,500 words 

How can you get permission?

  • Copyright Clearance Center facilitates getting permission to reproduce articles and book chapters in photocopies, library reserves, websites, and more. 
  • Contact the copyright owner.

How do you contact the copyright owner?

  • You can often find the owner's name in the formal copyright notice accompanying the work. 
  • Your librarian can help with locating names and contact information. 
  • Call the owners on the phone and ask direct questions about ownership and rights of use. 
  • Copyright owners may grant or deny your request. 
  • You may be granted permission if you pay a fee. 
  • Copyright owners have no obligation to respond at all. 
  • For most educational and research use, copyright owners are cooperative. 

Please note: A phone call may give you the exact name and address of the person to contact or even give you an immediate answer to your request. Oral permission granted over the phone is legally valid. Good practice require that you document the permission with a letter the grantor signs and returns to you. 

Sample Copyright Permission Letters

For more information on copyright permission forms, check out this website: