Staff at Princeton play key roles in both creating copyrighted material that supports the University, and in using copyrighted materials of others to advance teaching and research. Whether you are a creator or a user of copyrighted materials, it is important to understand the key legal concepts of copyright. The creator or the employer is ordinarily the owner of a work, but owners can transfer some or all of the rights to a work. This website is a joint effort of the Princeton University Library, The McGraw Center for Teaching & Learning, and the Office of the General Counsel. It offers an array of resources to help staff work effectively at the University.

Practical Tips for Staff

Best Practices when Using Copyrighted Materials

  • Document and attribute sources – it is good academic practice, and courtesy. Whether or not the materials are still under copyright, the sources for all third party materials should be appropriately credited in the materials.
  • Keep records of permissions, decisions that a use is “fair,” and/or records of searches resulting in a determination that a work is an “orphan” in shared office files so that the records can be located 50 or 75 years from now.
  • There are a number of sites that claim to have public domain works available, but be very wary of anything found on the internet.
    • Europeana at
    • Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)
    • Searching Google Images for images that are free to re-use without having to secure permission from the creators. (Once you get a page of search results, click on “Search Tools” and select “Usage Rights”.)
    • Creative Commons search at
    • has high-quality stock photos for free and many do not even require attribution.
  • It is good practice to upload an image that you are considering for use into Google Images and search for its life on the web, which may reveal that the person who posted the image where you originally found it had no rights to it, or that there is an easy licensing option.
  • You can research copyright: start with and