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Copyright and Public Domain: Copyright


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Online Documents

Fair Use resources

Fair Use by Use - from Webster University.  Using copyrighted materials in various situations.

Follow the Four Factors of Fair Use - from Ohio State."This video is about using the four factors of fair use to evaluate use of third party materials in a research project."

What is Copyright?

Unlike Plagiarism which is a matter of giving credit where credit is due, copyright involves actually copying something - a document, image, recording, software program, etc..

Copyright has lots of rules and can be complicated - hence this Guide.

Here is a helpful suggestion - If you "link" to an online resource rather than "copy" it, then copyright is not an issue - at least not for you. Keep in mind though that there is a LOT of content illegally copied and posted to the internet, so you should be sure the website in question actually owns what they have posted.

The Two Sides of the Copyright Law


 1. The right of the copyright holder to be protected from unfair copying.  vs. 2. The right of the public to copy unprotected works in whole or protected works in part.

The Rules

Public Domain

Licensed Content

Copyright Protected

Although the rules for copying all three kinds of information vary, there is one rule that applies to all.

Always cite what you copy!

Copying a sentence, an image, a sound, or a video that you did not create is stealing if you do not cite it - even if it is public domain, even if the licenses give you permission, even if you follow copyright rules.

Always, always cite what you copy!

Books on Copyright

Copyright vs. Licensing

Many vendors require a "licensing agreement" (i.e. signed contract) to buy or lease their content.

Such agreements supersede copyright and often explain, in great detail, what can or cannot be legally copied.



Instructional Videos

Copyright or Plagiarism

If you include a sentence, a paraphrase, or an idea in a paper and do not cite it, then you are claiming it as your own creation. That's called Plagiarism, and plagiarism is stealing. It will get you a bad grade and a bad reputation. It may cause you to fail your class or even get kicked out of college. Lots of professional people have lost their jobs over plagiarism.

If you copy something that deprives the owner of profit, that is probably a copyright violation.  If you copy a book, textbook, music cd, video, sheet music, work of art, etc., so you don't have to buy it, then you have deprived the seller of their profit, and that's called stealing. You may think they charge too much or it doesn't really hurt them or everyone does it, but it doesn't matter. It's still stealing.

How do you know? Practice the golden rule. What if it was your creation people were copying? What if you wanted to sell copies and feed your family, but couldn't because everyone copied it for free?