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Home > Using Copyright > Obtaining Rights > Licenses


Licenses are a form of contract that:

  • Grant permission to use works
  • Are limited by type of use
  • May cover your use

Permissions you may already have
When you buy a copy of a software program or multimedia product on CD-ROM, or buy access to digital materials such as electronic journals, you will have a license that describes how the work may be used without additional permission. Often these licenses will tell you if you can print materials for internal use, make archival copies, and if you can use the material on more than one computer. Before using a work, you should always look to see if any licenses are in effect.

Click Through Licenses
On web pages and works distributed electronically, there may be a license you must read before accessing the materials (often called a "click through" license) or licenses may be linked to the copyright notice, general site information, or referred to as legal notices.

Copyright Statements
Many commercial web sites have copyright statements that make it clear they intend for you to seek permission for all uses of their material besides viewing it on the site. Listed below, are a couple of examples of on-line licenses from commercial company web sites:

    "The contents of this web site may not be copied, reproduced, republished, uploaded, posted, transmitted, or distributed, in whole or in part, for any purpose other than individual viewing of this web site, without the express prior written consent."

    "The compilation (meaning the collection, arrangement and assembly) of all content on this site is the exclusive property of Company and protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All software used on this site is the property of Company or its software suppliers and protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. The content and software on this site may be used as a shopping resource. Any other use, including the reproduction, modification, distribution, transmission, republication, display or performance, of the content on this site is strictly prohibited."

Should you use works without permission from sites with the above type of license? Probably not.

You may have a fair use or classroom use argument, but the license is pretty explicit in its restrictions and you need to consider the terms carefully with respect to your intended use. This type of license is common on commercial web sites; in particular those containing copyrighted and trademarked cartoon characters.

On-Line License
The following is an example of an on-line license from a university site:

    "Permission to use, copy, modify, and distribute this software and its documentation for educational, research and non-profit purposes, without fee, and without a written agreement is hereby granted, provided that the above copyright notice, this paragraph and the following three paragraphs appear in all copies."

This type of on-line university license grants many permissions quite clearly. If the intended use is one of those listed in the license, you do not need to seek additional permission. You need to follow the instructions provided. In the example cited above, the on-line license requires users to include the copyright notice and other language contained on the site.

It is important to remember, if your intended use is outside the scope of the license, you should seek permission.

Example:  Use content for publication 


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