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Moving Image Research at Wilson Special Collections Library: Copyright and fair use

Copyright and UNC Libraries Collections

The UNC Libraries do not hold the copyrights for much of the material that is in our physical possession.  The UNC Libraries digitize and publish online selected materials from its collections so that they can be discovered and used.

While UNC Libraries can provide guidance on copyright for materials in its collections, it is ultimately the responsibility of the user to make the final determination about the legality of re-using materials from library collections. If you have questions about library policies in general or about the copyright status of a specific item, please contact the Wilson Library Research & Instructional Services department:

Someone who wants to reproduce the material, distribute it, or make any of the other uses associated with copyright must get permission from the rights holder if that use exceeds the limits defined in a copyright exception. Note that under the current law, creative work that is eligible for copyright protection receives that protection as soon as it is fixed in a tangible form of expression. Because registration and notice of copyright are no longer required, it can sometimes be difficult to identify the rights holder.

The rights holder’s exclusive rights are the rights of:

  • reproduction
  • preparing derivative work
  • distribution
  • public performance
  • public display
  • public performance by means of a digital audio transmission

Under U.S. law, in certain circumstances, creators of works of visual art have moral rights as well. In order to facilitate the re-use of our digital collections in personal, scholarly, and commercial projects, the library is making an effort to assign simple and clear rights statements to most items in its digital collections. These statements describe the copyright status, under current U.S. law, as far as it is known by the UNC Library.

For more about copyright and collections, please see the information provided by the UNC Libraries Scholarly Communications Office. 

Permission for reuse

Determining the rights holders of moving image materials at Wilson Special Collections Library and where to seek permission can be a challenging and a time-consuming process. Moving image materials can contain multiple rightsholders with different levels of control. It may require research into written documentation beyond what is available in the streaming file or metadata. In absence of any credits in the film or video itself, you can look for information about potential rightsholders--such as the creators, performers, subjects, or publishers--in the finding aid or catalog description of the item. For example VT-20194 was "videotaped by Nancy Dols, Rusty Neithammer, Jerry Weaver, and Andy Webb," but the music performed on the video tape is by Tommy Jarrell, all of whom may be rightsholders. 

screenshot of finding aid vdieo tape description

You can also find donor and potential rightsholder and donor information in the documented "Acquisitions Information" or "Provenance" of a collection in the "Information for Users" section at the top of each finding aid. For example materials in the Barbara Lau Collection (20055) were received from Barbara Lau, Beverly Patterson, and Jim White

screenshot of finding aid provenance section

If you have questions about about the copyright status of a specific item, please contact the Wilson Library Research & Instructional Services department: 

Fair use

Another legal way, besides requesting permission, to reuse another’s copyrighted work is through the use of copyright exceptions. These exceptions are built into U.S. copyright law to provide for reuses that are deemed beneficial for society, such as for education or research, to protect certain types of users of copyrighted content, or to fulfill Constitutional requirements such as free speech. For an extensive look at Fair Use including links to a Fair Use Checklist to help you make a determination for your project, please see the LibGuide for Fair Use created by the UNC Libraries Scholarly Communications Librarian. 

Fair use can apply to any type of work belonging to someone else, be it a journal article, a book, or an image. The same fair use analysis should be applied regardless.