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Health Sciences Scholarly Communication


USC's Office of the General Counsel provides guidance to USC faculty, staff, and students using copyrighted works in their research and educational endeavors.

This guide and any linked content is intended to provide general information about copyright and does not constitute legal advice.  For more detailed guidance on how to use copyright in relation to instruction, please see our Copyright guide.

What is Copyright?

"Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works." United States Copyright Office

Copyright offers exclusive rights to the creators of expressive works. These rights include:

  • Making copies
  • Distributing copies
  • Performing or displaying work
  • Making derivative works

What type of works can be copyrighted?

  • literary works
  • musical works, including any accompanying words
  • dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • pantomines and choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works

Learn more about copyright

Watch these videos and read these documents to learn more about copyright and how it affects researchers, professors, and students on campus. 

Linking to USC-licensed articles

Articles licensed by the USC Health Sciences Libraries are available for USC students, staff, and faculty to obtain one copy for personal use.

Copyright laws and license restrictions state that you cannot make additional copies and distribute them, or place your copy of the article online for free download.

You can use the Norris Library Class Reserves system to share readings with students within a class. The links below provide guidance regarding copyright clearance for any items you may wish to place on Course Reserves.

You can also create your own specially-formatted links to place in emails, on syllabi, and on webpages, to provide access to articles to other USC students, staff, and faculty. Watch the video below to learn how to create these links.

What is Fair Use?

What is Fair Use?

Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law allows for some uses of portions of copyrighted works for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. 

Section 107 identifies four factors by which Fair Use is determined:

  1. Purpose of use
  2. Nature of the original work
  3. Amount or portion used
  4. Effect of the use on potential market/value of the work

Fair Use Evaluators

These are interactive Fair Use evaluators that may help inform your decision to use copyrighted works.


“The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.”   – U.S. Copyright Office

Creative Commons

The Creative Commons copyright licenses and tools forge a balance inside the traditional “all rights reserved” setting that copyright law creates. These tools give creators a standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work. (