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

Copyright Terms

This page will provide you with definitions related to copyright, public performances, and library and user agreements.

Public Performances

A performance means to “recite, render, play, dance, act, either directly or by means of any device or process, or in the case of a motion picture, to show its images in any sequence, or to make the sounds accompanying it audible” (17 U.S. Code Section 101 - Definitions). Here are some examples of a performance:

  • Film showing
  • Performance of a play
  • Musical performance
  • Music recording playing in the background

Public is defined in two ways:

  • Public place clause:
    • A place open to the public;
    • Or where a substantial number of people, outside of a normal circle of a family or social acquaintances, have gathered.
  • Transmit clause: transmitting or communicating the performance:
    • To a public place;
    • Or to the public via a device or process, such as via the radio or the Internet.

Examples of public performances:

  • A film showing at a community/public location, such as at a library or an auditorium
  • A musical performance at a restaurant, bar, or venue
  • Music played on overhead speakers at a restaurant or bar

Examples of transmissions of public performances:

  • Broadcast television
    • Similar to radio stations, broadcast television networks negotiate licenses to publicly broadcast films, TV programs, and so forth to the public.
  • Streamed television online (e.g., Netflix, Hulu)
    • Streaming services negotiate license agreements to stream content to their subscribers.
  • A motion picture or other audiovisual work uploaded on a public website, such as YouTube

License and User Agreement Terms

  • Authorized users are the intended audience of a library resource that are granted rights within a license agreement.
  • When the contractual agreement (license) is broken by one of the parties, it is in Breach and the issue must be resolved within the Period for Cure, or number of days specified in a license from notice of issue by one party to final resolution. Otherwise there is a total loss of access to the licensed material.
  • A License is a contractual and legal agreement between the vendor (licensor) and library (licensee) for one-time purchases or subscription electronic content.  
  • The Shared Electronic Resources Understanding, or SERU, is an agreement between a library and vendor that acts as an alternative to a conventional electronic resources license. Parties are registered on the National Information Standards Oranization website to list their agreement.
  • Terms of Use refer to the portion of a license agreement or terms of service otherwise required by a vendor (such as posted on their website or directly on the resource) whereby the library understands what activity (searching, processing of content, etc.) may be done with a resource.