Five Step Analysis: Step 3

Step 3: Is your intended use of the work allowed under its stated terms of use?

Another way that a rights-holder can pre-authorize certain uses is to attach specific terms of use to the work itself. A copyright owner may agree in advance to allow copying and sharing of their work for specific purposes under certain terms, by one or more users. Although the terms of use applied to a work may be very narrowly defined, there are also openly licensed works that have clear, and often reasonably permissive, terms of use. A couple of examples are articles included in most open access journals and works made available under a Creative Commons licence. 

  • Open Access Journals

Open Access publications often have less restrictive copyright and licensing barriers. However, articles within such journals are still subject to copyright protection. Review the terms of use for each publication prior to copying and distributing articles. When in doubt, consider providing hyperlinks to refer others to the original source instead of copying and distributing the articles.

  • Creative Commons Licences

The Creative Commons copyright licences and tools operate inside the traditional “all rights reserved” setting that copyright law creates. These tools give copyright owners a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative works. As a result, a vast pool of digital content is made available for copying, distributing, editing, remixing and building upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law. See

  • Other Terms of Use

Rights-holders sometimes provide terms of use on the website where you access a web-based work or on the paper version of a work. Watch for these stated terms of use in the first or last pages of a printed work or in the “copyright,” “permissions” or “terms of use” section(s) of a hosting website. 


 If your intended use is within the scope of uses pre-authorized by the rights-holder, then no additional permission is required and you can proceed with your intended use. Otherwise, proceed to Step 4.


Step 4: Does an exception under the Copyright Act apply to your intended use?
If you have any questions, please contact the U of A Copyright Office at
Five Step Analysis for Using Copyright-protected Material