Digital Commons @ Macalester

What is Digital Commons?

DigitalCommons@Macalester makes available online Macalester College scholarship. It includes all types of scholarship including for example Honors projects, award-winning scholarship, working papers, college produced journals.

A Permanent Online Archive

Digital Commons is a permanent online archive that preserves and organizes materials. Any materials included in Digital Commons gets a dedicated permanent URL that can be used in articles, book, and papers to refer back to the scholarship.

Scholars Retain Their Copyright

Students and anyone else placing their materials in Digital Commons, retain the copyright for their works. Faculty and staff retain the copyright for works in accordance with the Macalester Policy on Ownership of Copyrights (PDF).

Content Needs to Be Original

DigitalCommons@Macalester requires that all content be original, or include appropriate citations and/or permissions when necessary.In some cases content producer will be required to declare that content is original.

Scholars contributing to Digital Commons may grant permission to make copies of their work available for interlibrary loan, or to the Macalester College community and to the larger scholarly community by remote access via the Internet or any successor technology.

Any future version of an institutional repository will preserve the copyrights contained within the Digital Commons@Macalester College.

Fair Use

Educational use alone is not sufficient to determine that use is “fair use.” Nor is any one single factor a determinate of an individual’s right to use a copyrighted work without permission.

Copyright law gives users, such as educators, the right to use works without obtaining permission if the intended use fits within certain specified exemptions, such as “Fair Use.”  These Fair Use provisions are found in Circular 21 “Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians” of the U.S. Copyright Office.

The Four Factors

To determine whether an intended use for which copyright permission has not been received, is a “fair use,” all of the four factors below need to be considered:

    1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purpose; (Included in consideration: criticism, comment and news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research.)


    1. the nature of the copyrighted work; (Materials designed primarily for educational use are more likely to be considered Fair Use than an item such as a popular magazine. The claim for Fair Use is greater in the case of factual works than for creative, original, or works of fiction.)


    1. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; (In short, if the entire work is reproduced, a claim cannot be made for Fair Use.)


  1. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work (This is considered whether the material is in the same medium or not. Future use in another medium is considered as affecting the author’s protection of the creation of a derivative work.)


Fair Use vs Obtaining Permission

In many cases, you can make an argument that your education-related use of copyrighted material meets “fair use” criteria, allowing you to use the material without specifically requesting permission or paying use fees.  The following resources can help you to evaluate whether your use meets educational fair use criteria.

How to Obtain Permission

When the criteria for Fair Use cannot be met, permissions should be obtained from the copyright owner.  Sometimes, locating the owner is simple; other times it requires more detective work.  Depending on the type of work—photograph, book, article, lyrics, video clip—one would need to search in different locations.  For more information on how to find the copyright owner, who may or may not be the original creator of the work, see:

Most websites or databases will have clearly stated policies on how to obtain permission to use their materials.  A recent example involves a faculty member asking for permission to use materials in a forthcoming book.  This involved using Vatican materials, and on their website was a clear explanation of what was required.

When requesting permission, please keep a close record of your correspondence and retain information once permission is given. For sample permission letters, see:

Human Subjects

If your project includes the use of Human Subjects, you must consult with Institutional Review Board for permission. See the Macalester Employee Handbook section 12.6. Types of resources that require additional permissions include:

  • Audio interviews
  • Images of children – if the subject is under age 18 (the age of consent), consent from the parent or guardian is required

Registering Original Works

U.S. Copyright Office

Digitial Millenium Copyright Sites:

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