Using Copyright Material

copyright symbol

Have you ever found yourself debating whether or not to use a picture that you found online because you were not sure if it was copyrighted? In the age of the internet and a society where creative work is protected by copyright laws, how do you know what you are legally allowed to use ?

What is Copyright?

Copyright is the lawful exclusive right of a creator to exploit, use and distribute his or her literary, music, or other creative or artistic work, whether it be recorded in the form of print, audio, video or otherwise.

Any materials found on the internet that are not explicitly labeled "public domain" or licensed by Creative Commons or similar open license, are most likely copyrighted.


Could you use Copyright Material?

In case you want to use a specific picture or file that is copyrighted, you can do one of these three things to be able to use it lawfully:

  1. You can pay for it.
  2. You can ask for written consent to use it from the author.
  3. You can invoke "fair use"

Fair use

Fair use is an exception to copyright that allow the use of material without permission form the author. There are four factors (which should be used as guidelines) to determinte fair use.

  1. Purpose and character of the use
  2. Nature of the work to be used
  3. How much of the work will be used
  4. Effect of the use on the market for the work


The Fair Use factors Checklist

The Fair Use AnalysisPDF File has been widely used for many years to help educators, librarians, lawyers, and many other users of copyrighted works determine whether their activities are within the limits of fair use under copyright law (Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act).

Legal penalties for misappropriating copyrighted materials can be substantial. Therefore, if you are not sure about the copyright status of the document in which you are interested, do not use it!

Visit CSUF OER Resources to search for free and open educational materials