ITS Style Guide
Issues of Copyright
Copyright is a complicated issue with many facets. This page discusses only
the use of written and graphical material from other sources within ITS documentation.
For more thorough coverage, please refer to
Note: ITS does not give legal advice, and this document
is not intended as such. If, after reading
If good documentation for a software product is available from another source, from another university or from the vendor of the software, you may want to consider obtaining permission to use all or part of it before writing a new document. However, before ITS can reproduce information from other sources, in either hard copy or online form, we must receive permission to do so. We must also give appropriate credit for such use. Below are some guidelines to follow. If you have questions about copyrights, contact Strategic Communications staff.
- Copyright does not have to be explicitly stated (though as a good practice, it ought to be). Assume everything is owned under copyright rules.
- Contact the copyright owner and request permission to reproduce or adapt the material. The copyright owner may be the author, publisher or software vendor, for example. This information may be included with the document itself, or it may be stated in the contract under which the software was acquired.
- Get written permission from the copyright owner to use the material, either as-is or adapted. Sometimes permission is granted in the contract under which the software was acquired, or in a README file included with the distribution.
- If you republish the document as-is, be sure to include the original copyright information and a note stating that the document is used with permission.
- If you adapt the original document, include the original copyright information in your adaptation, along with a note stating what the document is adapted from and noting that permission was granted to adapt the original. See the Data Classification Guidelines for an example of this.
Remember that without permission from the copyright owner, you must not reprint even small sections of a document to make up help files, usage notes, short-course handouts, etc., even if you give credit. As with your high school term papers, paraphrasing a document from another source does not make it your own.
If you have permission to use another's document, that permission does NOT grant you the right to pass the permission on to a third party. The third party should get permission from the copyright owner.
If you find good documentation on the Web, you can create a link to it. Linking does not require permission from the copyright owner.
Make sure to read any copyright notices on the pages you link to. If the copyright owner lists terms for linking, try to meet them. If you are unable or unwilling to do so, it is probably best to find another reference.
Graphics are protected under copyright. This includes simple screen captures as well as fancy logos. Watch out for so-called free clip art. Very often, this "free" art is actually linkware, and requires you to include a link to the copyright owner's home page.
Create your own screen captures whenever possible. Do not take a graphic from another Web page without permission, even if it is a screen capture of a commonly used piece of software.
When asking for permission to use someone else's graphics, find out if the copyright owner expects you to copy the graphics to your own local server, or if you are to make a reference to the file’s original location. Unless you have been told to do so, do not include the hypertext reference to someone else's graphic within your own document. This may be considered bandwidth theft.