Copyright Information & Resources

Key Vocabulary

  • Copyright is protection for intellectual property.
  • Intellectual property consists of anything an individual has written or created, including music, text, pictures, photographs, sounds, and so on.
  • Fair use doctrine is part of the copyright laws. It states that limited portions of material may be used without written permission for certain purposes, such as reporting the news or doing schoolwork. It doesn’t define “limited,” though, so be sure you don’t overuse material. The fair use doctrine requires you to give credit to the author or creator of any material you use.
  • Derivative works are copyrighted materials that have been altered or changed. Such material is protected by copyright laws. If you alter a copyrighted photograph by using computer software, that photograph is still protected, and you may not use it without written permission.
  • Academic standards for copyrighted material are higher than others. Because scholars and researchers study so many ideas and are responsible for sharing those ideas with the world, they are required to satisfy higher standards of honesty. They must give credit not only when quoting someone else’s exact words but also for the ideas those words represent. As a researcher, you cannot paraphrase what someone else says and not give credit for it.

Fair use guidelines

Fair Use guidelines were created specifically for educators and researchers. While these guidelines allow the use of copyrighted materials, there are certain boundaries:

  • The purpose and character of the use (i.e., uses for nonprofit or educational purposes are more likely to be considered fair use).
  • The nature of the copyrighted work (i.e., unpublished material is not likely to be considered under fair use).
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used (i.e., if is it 50% or more, it will be less likely to be considered fair use).
  • The effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work (i.e., the more the new work creates or says something new and original, the more likely it will be considered fair use).

Principles and rules of copyright

  • You cannot use copyrighted material without written permission from the creator of the material (or from its copyright holder).
  • Material can be protected even if it does not display the © symbol. Even if no mention is made regarding copyright, you must assume that all material from another source is protected.
  • Penalties for violating copyright laws can range from mild to severe. If you break the copyright law, you might simply receive an e-mail message from the author asking you to stop using the material. If you publish the material on a website, the webmaster might shut down your site. Or you could be sued by the author or prosecuted by federal authorities.
  • Most important: Do not use any material if you don’t have written permission.

For more information on copyright and fair use, visit the following resources:

Citing internet resources

Regardless of what materials you use, the following are best practices for citing Internet resources: always credit the source of your information.

  • Credit the source for all text, image, audio, and video used in a project or used to get information for the project.
  • Find out if the author of a work provides information on how to use his or her work. If explicit guidelines exist, follow them.
  • Whenever possible, write or send an e-mail to the owner to ask for permission to use the material, and keep a copy of the granted permission. Do not use the material until you are given permission.
  • Keep a record of where your images and music and sound effects came from. While on the Internet, keep a word processing document open and cut and paste the website information [title of website, URL, and date accessed ] as you use it.
  • Keep in mind that search engines such as or are not where you find the materials. You need to credit the site you went to from the search engine.

Copyrighting materials

If you want to copyright your own material, the copyright notice for visually perceptible material must contain one or more of the following elements:

  • The symbol © (the letter C in a circle) or the word “Copyright” or the abbreviation “Copr.” and
  • The year of first publication
  • The name of the owner of copyright Example: © 2006
  • Phonorecords and sound recordings use the letter P in a circle.
  • The copyright notice should be affixed in such a way as to “give reasonable notice of the claim of copyright.
  • Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from "All Rights Reserved" to "Some Rights Reserved." Visit:

Resources for royalty free music, images, and video

  • Freeplay Music: Collection of High End Broadcast production music.
  • Creative Commons: System that allows authors and creators to share their work publicly with the Creative Commons license of fair use.
  • Flickr Creative Commons: Creative Common users that use the photo service to share their photos.