Publishing and copyright can be tricky. Follow our guidelines to understand when permission is required to reuse content and how to seek permission.

Articles, books, unpublished manuscripts, tables, figures, photographs, and other content are often owned and copyrighted by someone. Laws and policies govern reuse, including putting material online for a course or referencing and using it in another work. 

Copyright may be an issue when dealing with:

  • Journal articles, or excerpts from them
  • Books, or excerpts from them
  • Databases and electronic journals
  • Musical works, scores, lyrics, and sound recordings
  • Pictorial/graphic works, art, sculpture, photographs
  • Audiovisual works, motion pictures, videos, video games
  • Computer software

Copyright is probably not an issue when dealing with:

  • Your lecture notes
  • Your course syllabi/reading lists
  • The problem sets you’ve developed for your courses
  • The tests you’ve created for your courses
  • Publications of the US Government
  • Content created before 1923
  • Published works for which copyright has expired or does not apply, i.e. works in the Public Domain

Linking to databases and e-journals

Most databases and e-journals are available at UCR under license agreements, which determine how each can be used. License terms generally override copyright law where they differ. Linking to a database or an e-journal from a course page is generally allowed and is the recommended method for providing access to online content.


  • To an open access environment: prohibited.
  • To an access-controlled environment: may or may not be allowed.

Fair Use

Fair use provisions of copyright law allow use of copyrighted materials on a limited basis for specific purposes without the permission of the copyright holder. To determine whether or not a proposed reuse qualifies for this exemption,  consider:

  • Purpose
    Nonprofit, educational, scholarly or research use and transformative use (repurposing, recontextualizing) favors fair use.
  • Nature of work
    Published, fact-based content favors fair use.
  • Portion
    Small exercepts, or using only the amount needed for a given purpose favors fair use. Note that an image or figure is commonly considered a work itself, or could summarize the key point of an article, both weighing against fair use.
  • Market effect
    if there would be no effect, or it is not possible to obtain permission to use the work, this favors fair use

Applying this four-factor test is not a clear-cut process, and each individual needs to weigh all four factors to decide whether a fair use exemption seems to apply to a proposed reuse. The Fair Use Analysis Tool from the University of Minnesota provides a structure for reviewing all four fair use factors for your proposed use. For examples of how it is applied to various kinds of materials and situations, see the University of Texas’s Fair Use information. Use other fair use decision tools such as Columbia University's Fair Use Checklist or the American Library Association's Fair Use Evaluator.

If Fair Use does not apply:

You can usually pay a fee to the rights holder in order to use material. For reuse of a portion of a book or article, an efficient place to begin is the Copyright Clearance Center, a commercial service. For reuse of content from formats other than a book or article ( or film) consult the University of Texas permissions page.

How can I reclaim my copyright?

Copyright law permits authors to reclaim their copyrights 35 years after transferring these rights. Reclaiming copyright allows the author to make new publishing arrangements, including making the work openly available on the web. Starting in 2013, authors can reclaim copyrights they transferred (e.g. through an agreement with a publisher) on or after January 1, 1978. Authors interested in reclaiming copyright need to file a notice in advance. To evaluate whether you can reclaim a copyright, or to initiate the required notice to the United States Copyright Office to reclaim it, use a form developed by Creative Commons.