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Provides a general introduction to copyright, fair use, copyright ownership, copyright for instructors, and useful resources.

Framework for Copyright Analysis

One of the most frustrating things for most people is that the answer to any copyright question is "It depends." This framework was designed to help deal with the uncertainty of copyright. By working through these questions for any copyright problem, in the order they are presented, you should be able to identify which parts of copyright law apply to your situation. (Note: A printable PDF of this framework is available below)

  1. Is the work protected by copyright?

    1. Is the work I want to use protected by copyright, or is it in the public domain? (See "Public Domain" under the Additional Resources tab)

    2. If I wrote it, do I still own copyright, or did I sign over rights for my intended use to the publisher? (See the Copyright for Authors tab)

  2. Is there a specific exception in copyright law that covers my use?

    1. Is my intended use covered by a specific exception to the exclusive rights in the copyright law, such as the one for libraries or for classroom performances and displays? (See the Copyright for Instructors tab)

  3. Is there a license that covers my use?

    1. Is there a Creative Commons license attached to the work? If so, can I comply with the terms of the license, or can I find another useful work that is CC-licensed?

    2. If affiliated with an educational institution, is there a license that governs how the copyrighted material I’m accessing through my library can be used?  If so, can I comply with the license terms? For ASU faculty, staff or students, you can contact Ask-a-Librarian if you have questions about using library materials.

  4. Is my use covered by fair use? (See the Fair Use tab)

    1. Four factors 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; and

      4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.  

    2. Questions for transformative fair use under factor one are:

      1. Does the copyrighted material help me make my new point?

      2. Will it help my readers or viewers get my point?

      3. Have I used no more than is needed to make my point? (Is it “just right”?)

  5. Do I need permission from the copyright owner for my use? (See the Copyright Registry and Searching tab)

    1. If so, first locate the copyright owner and fully explain your intended use in your permission request.

    2. If there is no response or the answer is no, reconsider your use of this work to see if you can make a fair use, or consider using another work.

Adapted from “A Framework for Analyzing any Copyright Problem” by Kevin Smith, Lisa A. Macklin, and Anne Gilliland for the "Copyright for Educators and Librarians Course" on Coursera  CC-BY-SA


This adaptation is also released under a CC-BY-SA Creative Commons License.

Here's a PDF version of the above framework for future use.

Copyright Analysis Tools

The ASU Library acknowledges the twenty-three Native Nations that have inhabited this land for centuries. Arizona State University's four campuses are located in the Salt River Valley on ancestral territories of Indigenous peoples, including the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee Posh (Maricopa) Indian Communities, whose care and keeping of these lands allows us to be here today. ASU Library acknowledges the sovereignty of these nations and seeks to foster an environment of success and possibility for Native American students and patrons. We are advocates for the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge systems and research methodologies within contemporary library practice. ASU Library welcomes members of the Akimel O’odham and Pee Posh, and all Native nations to the Library.