Using Copyrighted and Library Content

Find out how you can legally and ethically use copyrighted and library content in your academic research, instruction, essays & writings, and creative projects. Legal disclaimer: this copyright guide is meant for informational & educational purposes only.

Library Research Guide

Know Your Librarians; We're On Your Side

Faculty at the Center for the Advancement of Digital Scholarship (CADS) are here to help you with questions you may have pertaining to copyright, reuse, fair use, permissions, and licensing. This guide will help you understand how to legally and ethically reuse content in different contexts. For more specific questions, you can contact them directly.

CADS can help when you have questions about U.S. copyright law, fair use, Creative Commons Licensing, Open Access (OA), and permissions. They can be reached at or you can set up a copyright consultation.

Legal disclaimer: this copyright guide is not meant to offer legal advice; it is intended for informational and educational purposes only.

Introduction to This Guide

This guide will explain how you can legally and ethically use copyrighted and library content in your academic research, instruction, essays & writings, and creative projects. 

Using Copyrighted and Library Content addresses patron questions at Kansas State University, but it is written to also be used for similar scenarios at other US libraries.  All links in this guide open in the same window (or tab), and this guide was designed to meet accessibility standards.

A brief overview of each section/page of this guide is provided below. For definitions to copyright and licensing terms, see the Definitions page.

  • Licensed K-State Content suggests ways to determine whether a resource on the library website or accessed from a search engine or search tool involves a contractual agreement (license) with a library vendor and thus requires that the user comply with the license.
  • Both Open Online and MOOCs and Closed Online Classrooms provide guidelines for including others' works in an online classroom setting, and this is primarily written for university instructors.
  • Emailing Content explains the concerns for any patron using listservs and email to share content licensed by the library
  • Sci Hub  is an online resource for open information whose illegal practices K-State Libraries does not support, and this page explains why as well as alternative methods and resources for finding Open Access content.
  • Downloading Journals explains the library ethics of why university faculty and students should avoid downloading all of the content of a journal
  • Data and Text Mining provides a brief introduction to the practice which may lead to violation of the library and vendor's contractual terms of agreement

This guide also includes information and resources about using music, film, and other audiovisual materials.

  • Music and Theatrical Performances describes copyright issues pertaining to university and off-campus performances, both dramatic and non-dramatic.
  • Film Showings and Festivals discusses the necessary public performance rights (e.g., showing a film at a university event) for university faculty and students; the definition for a "public performance" is provided on the Definitions page
  • Audiovisual Content or Videos provides steps to ensure copyright compliance for using another's work
  • Music in Videos describes how to legally use music in videos and provides context about finding in the public domain, Creative Commons Licensed, royalty-free music, and music licensed by YouTube. It also provides information about obtaining the necessary license or permissions and what to do if your video if flagged for infringement on a major video platform.