This Guide has been developed for members of the Yale community seeking to produce and disseminate digital content, and is intended to cover digital content that

  • Yale may own under its copyright policy;
  • is expected to reside on any of Yale’s websites;
  • relies substantially on Yale’s facilities or other resources for its creation or dissemination; or
  • is otherwise likely to give the impression of originating from Yale either through branding or other use of the Yale name.

Specifically, this Guide is designed to help you identify and resolve issues related to the use in your digital project of material created by others, as well as material, such as images of individuals, that may carry publicity and privacy protections.  It addresses the following questions:

  • How do you identify third-party content?
  • What use restrictions apply to third-party content and how do you determine if they apply to material in your project?
  • What permissions are required when using copyrighted or trademarked materials and how do you request and obtain that permission (the “rights clearance” process)?
  • Are there alternative sources for materials that do not require permission, or are free or less expensive?

Why is this important?

Use of third-party copyrighted or trademarked material or use of a person’s identifying characteristics without permission may be illegal and/or unethical.  It may also expose Yale to significant financial liability and tarnish the reputation of the University and those affiliated with it.

University Funds and Resources


  • $750-$30,000 per work infringed
  • $150,000 per work if willful, plus attorney’s fees
  • No damages will be awarded if educational institution had reasonable belief that use was fair – but must consider costs in defending a copyright infringement action.

While taking the steps necessary to ensure that you have secured the needed permissions for any third-party material used in your department’s digital project can be a time-consuming process, it is a crucial one.  Failing to do so could not only put the University at risk financially and otherwise, it could result in your department’s digital project being pulled from the web, effectively undoing all the other effort involved in creating the project.  The guidelines, information, and forms provided in this Guide can help you navigate the rights clearance process and help ensure your project’s success.