<%response.buffer=true%> <% yere = year(date()) Response.Expires = 0 %> Intro: Writing For The Web
< Copyright & Education >

Fair Use

" This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice." Oliver Wendell

The Inevitable Disclaimer: Legal information on this website, and perhaps any other, does not constitute sound legal advice. That is why there are lawyers!

Before We Begin, One Simple Rule: The easiest way to stay clear of legal trouble as described is:

  • Only use work that belongs to you

While this may seem restrictive, we will be discussing content generation alternatives below, and later in class.

Reading Your Rights: Intellectual Property refers to the ownership of the expression of ideas or information, not the ideas themselves.

Intellectual Property laws refer to the legal rights regarding people's creations or inventions. These rights include:

Legal Arena Rights Application
Copyright © Exclusive rights to reproduce, publish or re-use an original work Dramatic, literary, musical or artistic works
Trademark ™ A trademark is any word, name or symbol used in commerce to identify the goods of a manufacturer or seller of goods. In short, a trademark is a brand name. Company names, website domains, corporate slogans
Servicemark sm A service mark is any word, name or symbol used in commerce to identify the services of a provider. Company names, website domains, corporate slogans

These laws are designed to balance between rewarding exclusive rights to the creator of a work, and promoting the free flow of ideas, which facilitate further creation.


John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater RevivalThe Right To Copy: As creator of an original work, you possess the sole rights to reproduce, publish and re-use it.

Copyright in North America is automatically conferred upon the creator of an original work. The use of © is not required to assert rights.

The work must exist in material form. The form could be a recording, film, printed text or image of your work.

Once it is in material form, it is best to register your copyright with the Federal Copyright Office, which will help if your copyright is ever contested. Copyright Office

Copyright can be transferred to another party. Notable musicians, including John Fogerty and Prince have run afoul of copyright ownership issues: Fogerty Vs. Fantasy

Facts and ideas are not subject to copyright protection. I can't copyright that Kennedy was the 35th president of the US, nor can I copyright the result when you get peanut butter in my chocolate! 10 Copyright Myths 2nd DaVinci Code Suit

Weird Al Yankovic, King of Parody

Fair Use: Even if a copyright applies to a work, there are cases where parts of the work can be reproduced, under the Fair Use Laws:

  • excerpts in critical review
  • excerpts in a scholarly work
  • use in parody
  • use by teacher or student to illustrate a lesson
  • legislative or judicial proceedings

Plagiarism: When we pass off work, in whole or in part from another without crediting that person, that is called Plagiarism.

In sum, to avoid plagiarism:

  1. Provide a note for any idea borrowed from another.
  2. Place quoted material within quotation marks.
  3. Provide a bibliography entry at the end of the book for every source.

As a rule of thumb, a piece of information that occurs in five or more sources may be considered general knowledge. Proverbs, and sayings of unknown origins, are also considered general knowledge and do not have to be documented. The following are situations where we should credit another source

  • Any idea derived from a known source.
  • Any fact or data borrowed from the work of another.
  • Any especially clever or apt expression, whether or not it says something new, that is taken from the work of another.
  • Any material lifted verbatim from the work of another.
  • Any information that is paraphrased or summarized.

Plaigiarism Vs. Research

Using copyrighted material that does not fall into one of the fair use categories, and without permission of the copyright holder is called Copyright Infringement, which is in violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act

Copyrights & Websites: Copyright law as applied to web sites and web content pose their own particular issues, for example, my website needs to be copyrighted on a fixed media, like a CD, not JUST on a web server: Copyright on the Internet

The Web Makes Things Easy, Perhaps Too Easy: The format of HTML provides quick and easy access to information and images. This also means quick and easy access to copying other people's work!

Copyright Exceptions: Employees and contractors of a company who create works under a 'work-for-hire' clause forfeit their rights and the employer owns the copyright. work-for-hire

Derivative Works: A work that is based on another person's creation is called a derivative work. The derived work could damage the marketability or reputation of the original. Derivative Works

Public Domain: The "Public Domain" refers to created materials which either do not by law get copyright protection or their protection under the law has lapsed. Materials in the public domain do not have copyright protections and thus you do not need permission to It's A Wonderful Lifeuse them.

Copyrights currently last the life of the creator, plus about 70 years. Copyrights can be transferred, licensed or assigned to others. Copyright laws continue to go through changes, however.

Ever wonder why 'It's A Wonderful Life' is seen so many times at Christmas? It's copyright was accidentally allowed to lapse in 1974. There are many 'gems' available for use in the public domain, but there are pitfalls for the unwary: Scouring The Public Domain

Creative Commons: Many artists and creators of copyright protected work find that all out copyright hinders them from gaining exposure and widespread distribution.

The Creative Commons is a non-profit website allowing artists to convey copy, distribution and performance rights to others. These rights are subject to specific restrictions, but allow much greater distribution to copyright holders. We can use the Creative Commons both in widening our audience, and in procuring content. Creative Commons

Jabberwocky, a good pic for a kid!An Image Worth A Thousand Words: Having compelling images on a website is vital. Remember when you were a kid? What did you think of the books that had no good pictures?

Royalty-free Images: For people who need images at low cost, the stock photo industry offers images that are sold repeatedly, and no one can purchase exclusive rights to them. A great place to get royalty-free images is IStockPhoto

Rights-managed Images: are governed by contracts that define how an image may be used.

Designers who want to make sure a particular image won't be used by a competitor, for example, will want to invest in a rights-managed image. These images are often more expensive and contain more complex agreements.


The doctrine of Fair Use dictates the educational (and other) guidelines for the use of a copyrighted work.  When trying to determine whether or not something falls under the guidelines of fair use, the following four factors need to be considered:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit or educational purposes
  • The temporal nature of the copyrighted work (spontaneous and singular vs. repeated and planned)
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion of the work used in relation to the work as a whole
  • The effect of the use on the market or potential market for the original work

The fair use analysis must consider all four factors and an educational use may not be fair, particularly if the use adversely impacts the market for the original work. For example, making copies of an entire textbook so that students don't have to purchase their own copies of a text is not likely to be considered a fair use. Copying a few passages or a chapter of a textbook may be.

USC Title 17, Ch.1 Sec. 107: http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html

(Definition from the University of Washington Copyright Connection web site)


Safe Harbor: There are no hard and fast rules (bright line) for determining fair use of materials in an educational setting, however, the key is that the use will not replace the purchase of the copyrighted materials in question.

Here are some sample types of copyrighted materials, and the sample educational fair use of the type of material:

Media Permissable Amount
Illustrations or Photos
  • No more than 5 images from one artist
  • No more than 10% or 15 images from a collection, whichever is less
Music, Lyrics and Music Video (audio/visual)
  • Up to 10 percent of the work, but no more than 30 seconds total
Home recorded copies of TV programs
  • Should only be shown in the classroom up to 10 days after initial broadcast
Articles, stories
  • If less than 2500 words, the entire article or story.
  • Up to 10% of a prose work, up to 1000 words
Charts,graphs, cartoons
  • A single instance of a chart, graph or cartoon per book or periodical issue
  • A complete poem if less than 250 words, or an excerpt not longer than 250 words
Media on the web (audio, video, photos, articles)
  • Must be permissible amounts, and should be password protected

More details on copying for classroom use: http://flightline.highline.edu/copyright/faculty/making_copies.html

More Fair Use Resources:

FAQ: Fair Use Of Intellectual Property with Examples Of Best Practices:

Good Practices Regarding Fair Use of Intellectual Property:

Media Release, and Release Form:

AAP Copyright Clearance Center:

Fair Use Checklist (Indiana University):

Fair Use Issues (Indiana University):

Copyright Law For Librarians & Educators (Book, 2005):

Conference on Fair Use (1997):

Wikipedia on Fair Use:

Fair Use In MultiMedia, Digital Age Copyright (Excellent!):

Highline Copyright Information Center (Includes Copyright Jeopardy):

Additional Resources: Here are some more resources for materials, etc.

http://www.royaltyfreemusic.com (Free music)
http://creativecommons.org/audio/ (More music)
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page (Audio, video & images)
http://mirrors.creativecommons.org/Podcasting_Legal_Guide.pdf (Podcasting legal guide)
http://www.eff.org/bloggers/lg/ (Legal guide for bloggers)
http://www.eff.org/bloggers/lg/faq-students.php (Blogger legalities for students)


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