Two students sitting in chairs and looking at a laptop screen.

Advice on Appropriate Use

If you aren’t sure whether the work you want to use is protected by copyright, this tool from the American Library Association can help you decide. If the work is in the Public Domain or otherwise not protected, you are able to use it.

Stanford has a nice explanation of the provisions of fair use, including descriptions of permitted uses for comment & criticism, and parody, plus an explanation of the "four factor test" that governs fair use.

The Association of Research Libraries also has a guide on the "Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries".

The Center for Media and Social Impact have compiled a collection of codes of best practices in particular areas.

The University of Minnesota provides this Fair Use Analysis Tool, which will help you determine whether your use meets the guidelines.

If it has been established that a planned use of a copyrighted item is not a fair use, permission must be obtained from the copyright holder. This means contacting the copyright holder (or their agent) and requesting permission to copy or publicly display the work. Royalties may have to be paid to obtain permission. For printed works, particularly periodical articles, the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) provides this service and can be contacted directly from this site. For more information see Instructions for First-time users of the Copyright Clearance Center.

Yes, it is illegal unless you own the copyright (i.e., you created the work yourself) or you have permission from the creator / owner to distribute it. Legally purchasing a song or a movie may not give you the right to share it with others. The Recording Industry of America (RIAA) explains the law on sharing music files.

Copyrighted material that is illegally distributed over the Internet can take many forms. However, most DMCA notices received by UST involve music, movies or television shows, and software, including video games, being used without permission. Other types of materials include written works, audio- and e-books, photographs and images, including Web sites or other Web-based content.

It is not against the law to use a P2P file-sharing program or to share non-copyright protected materials such as your own works or works in the public domain. At the same time, P2P file sharing is the illegal distribution method most often cited in DMCA notices. If you purchase a song or a movie, you have the right to keep a copy of it on your computer for your own use. But if your computer contains P2P software, you may be sharing it with people who have not paid for it. That is copyright infringement and you can be held responsible.

In recent years, copyright holders, such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), have stepped up legal efforts to combat infringement, including targeting college students with increased numbers of copyright Infringement notices. As a student, you should be aware of the risks you take if you choose to participate in this activity.

Four things you should know:

  1. UST receives hundreds of copyright infringement notices each year, almost exclusively for students.
  2. You can receive a notice for downloading or for allowing others to upload content from your computer. If you have file sharing software on your computer, you may be distributing copyrighted materials anytime your computer is on the network.
  3. If you receive a notice for inappropriate activity on the campus network, your network or Internet access may be temporarily disabled and you will be required to complete specific actions before access is reinstated.
  4. Repeat offenders will be referred to the university student judicial process for further disciplinary action.

Several services allow you to legally download music, software, television shows and movies. Each legal alternative has some kind of revenue: simple sales, monthly fees, or paid advertising. UST Libraries subscribes to several databases which provide UST students with free access to audio and visual materials. Educause also maintains a comprehensive list of legal downloading services.

Infringements of copyrights owned by UST and copyright violations on UST's network should be reported to