Copyright can be defined as the right to copy something. It gives an author control over who can use or reproduce his or her creative work. Do not confuse owning a copy of a work with the right to make a copy of that work.
Copyright is automatic. As soon as you create something, you own the copyright and have legal control over how it's used, regardless of whether a copyright notice is displayed or not.
Public domain works are those which can usually be copied and used without permission from the owner. Copyright generally expires after a certain period of time, which means that most titles before that time are in the public domain.
Works generally fall into public domain:
Please note that this is a general guideline. Copyright can be renewed and foreign works have different sets of copyright rules, so be sure to research each work carefully before assuming it is in the public domain.
Fair Use is part of copyright law (Section 107) that determines the extent to which you may use or distribute a copyrighted work without requesting specific permission.
Fair use generally permits parts of a work to be used in the following examples:
Many instructors incorrectly assume this final bullet means that copyright does not apply to the classroom at all. Copyright law can be vague on what constitutes fair use, but it has established four factors as a basic rubric to judge.
Do not assume that citing a source or using it for educational purposes puts it under fair use. Copyright law is flexible, but four factors are weighed to determine whether copying material applies to fair use.
Fair use is more likely to apply if the reason for its use is:
Fair use is more likely to apply if the work being used is:
Fair use is more likely to apply if you use:
Fair use is more likely to apply if you:
Keep in mind that every situation is different, so what may be permitted in one situation may not be acceptable in every situation. When in doubt, ask for permission.
For more detailed information on copyright, fair use, and Creative Commons, check out the resources below.
It may be helpful to use evaluation tools when walking through the process of determining fair use.
Always ask yourself: "What would I want someone else to do if this were my work?"
Even if a work is still under copyright, an owner may allow it to be used in certain ways. Some owners mark their work "open access" or "open source" so that members of the public can use, copy, or even manipulate it into something new.
Creative Commons (CC) licensing is a simple and uniform way for authors to:
It offers free, flexible licenses in plain language so both creator and user understand what can and cannot be done with the material.
Creative Commons: The license is Creative Commons, rather than a simple copyright license.
Attribution: Give appropriate credit where due. If this icon appears alone, you can do whatever you want with the work as long as you credit the original creator. If it is combined with other icons, follow the stipulations identified in those icons.
Share Alike: Works with this icon can be modified, but all modifications must carry the same license. If a work with this icon does not allow commercial use, anything you do with it must also be non-commercial.
No Derivatives: This work cannot be modified. You can copy and redistribute this work in its entirety, but you cannot change it.
Non-Commercial: This work cannot be used for commercial purposes. It can be modified for personal or public use, but it cannot be used in advertising or anything intended to make money.
Public Domain: This work is no longer restricted by copyright, usually due to age.
CC0: The creator has opted out of copyright and database protection, and declared "no rights reserved" on the work.
If you want to use or copy an author's work and you don't think it will fall under fair use: