Library Development

Public Library Annual Report Due May 29

This is another gentle reminder for those of you who have not yet submitted your completed Public Library Annual Report. On May 29, all public libraries need to have submitted their annual report to the State Library. Thank you for completing the report in a timely manner.

The Traffic Signs of Copyright & Fair Use

By Jane Healy

“I found an essay on the web that would be perfect for my next newsletter. It doesn’t have the copyright symbol ©, so it must be okay to use, right? I copied it from the web and pasted it into my newsletter template.”

Not so fast!

stop sign

The copyright symbol is not necessary for works published after 1989, so you should always assume that published material—whether in print or online, an image, video, or sound—is copyrighted.

“So I can’t use that perfect essay?”

yield sign

Maybe—if your use fits the Fair Use guidelines as covered in Section 107 of the Copyright Act (Sections 107 and 108 of Title 17 U.S. Code).

Ask yourself these questions before you use published material without permission:

  • For what purpose am I using this material?
    • Commercial or non-profit educational? Intending to make money from the product you create using someone else’s work is not fair use.
    • Use for criticism, parody, teaching, comment, news reporting, scholarship, and research is allowed.
    • Have you changed the nature of the work? Have you made a video of it, added or deleted characters or otherwise changed it from the original, and if so, how much?
  • What is the nature of the work?
    Is it creative, factual, educational, entertainment? Non-fiction is more likely to be viewed as fair use than a novel, for example.
  • How much of the work are you using? And which parts?
    Fair use does not cover using most or all of a work. And you cannot use the part of the work that is its essence or core. For example, you could not use one line of a three-line poem without permission.
  • If you use the material, what is the potential market effect?
    Will your use substantially harm the copyright holder’s profits?

Though not part of the guidelines themselves, court rulings have decided favorably in cases where most of the above criteria are met and the motive to use the material was determined to be in good faith.

winding road sign

As you can see, the path to proper use of copyrighted material is not straight.

How would you answer the questions in the scenario above? Can you use that perfect essay? If your use meets the criteria listed above, go ahead!

go traffic light

Try answering the four questions using the Fair Use Visualizer.

For a fun video explanation of Fair Use, see

The Copyright Act is online here.

Images (color altered) used are from’s clipart file, and are copyright-free.

If you have questions about fair use or copyright, please contact Jane Healy at

Connecting to Collections Informational Meeting is May 28

The South Dakota Heritage Fund, in partnership with the South Dakota Association of Museums, the South Dakota State Historical Society, and the South Dakota State Library, has been granted a Connecting to Collections planning grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. This grant is going to be used to survey library and museum collections in South Dakota.

Libraries and museums that take part in the planning phase of this grant will have a greater voice in the formation of conservation, preservation, and disaster planning. Historical artifacts can be damaged in a variety of ways - inferior materials, hostile environments, and careless handling being the most common reasons for deterioration. If these collections are going to be saved for future generations, care needs to be taken now.

There will be an informational meeting held in Sioux Falls on May 28 at the Oak View Branch Library, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. Representatives of the South Dakota State Historical Society and the South Dakota State Library will be in attendance to answer your questions. If you would like more information please contact:

copyright, history, IMLS, public libraries, reports

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The Cornerstone monthly e-newsletter is created by the South Dakota State Library. For more information on how to be a part of this newsletter, please contact us via e-mail with your questions and ideas.