DISCLAIMER: Information found in this guide is not intended to be legal advice. This is a guide to copyright laws and issues, in the United States, generated by librarians at the University Libraries.
The following information will cover selected copyright topics - Fair Use, Public Domain, and Citing Unpublished Sources - as they relate to using primary sources (e.g., letters, interviews, recordings, reports, and photographs) typically held in archives, oral history centers, and other repositories, as well as sources accessible in digital archives.
U.S. Copyright Law provides for the fair use of a copyrighted work, including criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is the fundamental basis for using primary sources, including unpublished materials, in research and creative activity. Fair use is the basis for individuals freely incorporating sources, without seeking permission from the copyright holder into works.
Oftentimes, fair use covers using selections of copyrighted material in the classroom for educational purposes. There are four factors to consider when using selections of copyrighted material:
Fair Use Checklists
When making decisions about whether your use is a "fair use", please examine a fair use checklist. The checklists provide a systematic method for working through the four principles of fair use for a copyrighted work. There are many examples of fair use checklists available online. The University Libraries Course Reserves office tends to use the Columbia University Libraries list, created by Kenneth D. Crews (formerly of Columbia University) and Dwayne K. Buttler (University of Louisville) under the Creative Commons license.
Fair Use Index
A Fair Use Index is available through the U.S. Copyright Office. This Index can be searched by category (e.g., literary, music, artistic, etc.) and type (e.g., education, scholarship, parody, research, etc.). The Index also tracks court decisions at various court levels. This database is a helpful resource on fair use.
The term, or duration, of copyright is not infinite, and works pass into the public domain; thus individuals and entities may freely use works without the permission of the former copyright owner. To determine if a work is in the public domain, consult the Cornell University Library's Copyright Information Center.
Academic integrity, sound scholarship, and otherwise responsible use of materials relies upon citing sources.
Citation styles (e.g., MLA) provide formats for citing unpublished works. Often, the library, archives, or digital repository has recommended citation formats based on standard citation styles. Consult the library, archive, or repository that holds the materials you are using for assistance with citation formats.
When using primary sources held by the University of South Dakota, consult the citation format examples below, which are based on the Chicago Manual of Style:
[Identification of item], [date], [box],[folder], [series], [collection name], [repository location]
[Identification of item], by [name of interviewer], [date], [collection name and number], [repository location]
Oral History Interview with Gladys Pyle, by Paul O'Rourke, March 20, 1972, SDOHP 210, South Dakota Oral History Center, University of South Dakota.