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University Archives and Manuscripts

Information about how to conduct research in University Archives and Manuscripts.

Fair Use

Fair use is a copyright principle that allows users of information to be able to use intellectual property while still enabling the creator to be able to own and profit from their work.  If you are using an intellectual work for any of these reasons then you are more than likely falling under the fair use principle of copyright.

These reasons include: criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research.

What counts as “fair use” of something depends on these four main factors:

  1. The Purpose and Character of Use: How have you used the work? Have you transformed the original work by adding new expression or meaning?
  2. The Nature of the Copyrighted Work: Is the work factual in nature or creative? Is it unpublished or published? Different factors about the original work will have an effect on fair use.
  3. The Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used: How much of the original work are you quoting, summarizing or using? (Quoting three lines of a six line poem is different than quoting three line from a five minute song). And, of the portion that you are using - how much of the “substantial” idea of the work are you using?
  4. The Effect of the Use on the Original Work in the Market: Does the way you use the work deprive the copyright owner of income? Or does it undermine a new or potential market for the original work?


For more information on fair use check out Stanford University's guide to Fair Use.


Citing Archival Materials

When citing archival materials, focus on helping the reader identify what is being cited and where it is located; thus include the following elements:

Repository where the item is held.  Example: Brown University Archives.

Collection in which the item is found. Example: James Manning papers.

Series in which the item is found. Example: Letters and manuscripts of James Manning.

Folder title in which the item is found (if available). Example: Manuscripts.

The document itself, including page, section, or date information, where necessary. Example: A list of subscriptions due to College, undated.

Unpublished Material and Copyright

Unless otherwise designated, the rights of unpublished works reside with the author during his/her lifetime and with his/her heirs for 70 years after death.  Thus, the gift or sale of collections does not implicitly transfer copyright to a repository.  The period protecting copyright for unpublished anonymous works and works for hire is 120 years from the date of creation.

Upon expiration of these time periods, unpublished works pass into the Public Domain (© 2004-9 Peter B. Hirtle. Last updated 5 January, 2009).