What you need to know about Copyright...

Can You Use It? Use this step-by-step process to decide if you can use a piece of media.

Copyright Basics
Copyright FAQs

What is copyright?
"Copyright refers to a Federal law that protects work created by you or anyone else from being copied, changed, or used without permission. In other words, when you create something like a story, photograph, poem, song, or drawing, it belongs to you and others have to get your permission to use it." [1]

What is protected by copyright?
Copyright protects “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. The fixation need not be directly perceptible so long as it may be communicated with the aid of a machine or device. Copyrightable works include the following categories:
  • literary works
  • musical works, including any accompanying words
  • dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • pantomimes and choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works

What can not be copyrighted?
Works in the public domain:
  • Ideas are in the public domain.
  • Facts are in the public domain.
  • Words, names, slogans, or other short phrases also cannot be copyrighted. However, slogans, for example, can be protected by trademark law.
  • Blank forms.
  • Government works, which include: judicial opinions, public ordinances, administrative rulings.
  • Works created by federal government employees as part of their official responsibility.
  • Works for which copyright wasn't obtained or copyright has expired (extremely rare!).

What can you use for your project?
That depends on how your end product will be used. If you only intend to share your final work in school, at home, and possibly for an educational (paper-based) portfolio, then you may work under "Fair Use" guidelines. HOWEVER, if at any time your final product ends up on the Internet or you make multiple copies, you are no longer protected under "Fair Use". You would need to request permission from the copyright holder. Remember, Fair Use is for educational use ("think in the school", the Internet in a public space.
  • See Fair Use guidelines here.
  • The best way to work is by using media from the Public Domain whenever possible.
  • Check to see if the publisher has special requests for use and annotation (Fair Use and Public Domain).
  • If in doubt, request permission from the copyright holder.
  • ALL SOURCES (Fair Use and Public Domain) MUST BE CITED IN MLA STYLE.
  • Can You Use It?[2] Use this step-by-step process to decide if you can use a piece of media.

What is Creative Commons?
"Creative Commons is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright."[3]
Creative Commons Licences

Additional Copyright Information
  1. ^ "Copyright Definitions." NC WiseOwl Home Page. NC Online Windows for Learning, 2009. Web. 14 Nov. 2010.
  2. ^ Love, Cassandra. "Students as Creators: Exploring Copyright - ReadWriteThink." ReadWriteThink. National Council of Teachers of English. Web. 14 Nov. 2010.
  3. ^ "About Creative Commons." Creative Commons. Web. 14 Nov. 2010.