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Find resources and recommendations on making legal and ethical use of copyrighted scholarly work.

Brown Licensed Material

The Brown University Library licenses over 300 databases and over 100,000 electronic journals for use by the Brown community. Clicking on the "L" icon will usually give you the general terms under which our use is licensed.

The Library's subscription resources are available to members of the Brown University community in accordance with the publisher's license terms and conditions. Users have an obligation to read, be aware of, and observe the terms and conditions of use for all electronic resources. License terms and conditions usually stipulate the following:

  • Permitted Uses: Authorized Users may typically display, download, print, and copy a reasonable portion (generally one or two articles or one book chapter) of the Licensed Electronic Resource.
  • Restrictions: Authorized Users typically are not permitted to modify or create a derivative work from the Licensed Resource; remove, obscure, or modify any copyright or other notices; or use the Licensed Resource for commercial purposes. Systematic downloading, distributing, or retaining substantial portions of information or using software such as scripts, agents, or robots, to retrieve information is generally prohibited.

While these licenses do not provide all the permissions one might want, they do allow for most common academic and pedagogical uses, i.e. downloading, printing for individual use. Because almost all articles and books carry stable URL addresses, it is also easy to point your students to them with a link.

Attempts at systematic downloading are easily detectable, and in most cases traceable to the IP address from which they originated.


Music licenses (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC): The University negotiates licenses with the major music performance rights organizations for the licensed performance of music on campus and for campus events.  In general these licenses allow for the non-dramatic performance of musical works from the music in the ASCAP, BMI and SESAC catalogs on the Brown campus and within Brown buildings. [Dramatic works include Musical theater, Opera, Ballet and Stage plays.] The licenses differ in their licensing of broadcast and intranet/internet transmissions of works from their catalogs. 

These licenses do not cover the public performance of motion pictures.

Creative Commons Licenses

Works licensed by Creative Commons must be used only with the restrictions (if any) that the CC license places on the work. The most common means for this licensing is the Creative Commons License which provides a range of options ranging from no restrictions whatsoever (the so-called CC-zero license) to more complex restrictions including the requirement to acknowledge the author (CC-BY), to not use commercially (CC-NC), the requirement to share your derivative work (CC-SA), or combinations of these.

For example, if the author were permitting you to use the work in any way you like as long as you acknowledge them as the author, they might choose a CC-by license:

Images licensed for use using Creative Commons may be found at Flickr, Google Advanced Image Search and at WikiMedia Commons among others.  See also The Copyright and Ethics of Image Use.

Most Open Access publications are published under a Creative Commons license.

Uses beyond those licenses may require you to either seek permission or to apply Fair Use.

Public Domain