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Copyright and Fair Use Guide

Copyright and Fair Use Frequently Asked Questions



What is the difference between copyright and plagiarism?

Copyright addresses legal considerations such as who -- if anyone -- owns the rights to use a digital file, text document, etc. The copyright status of an item determines whether and how a student can use it for an academic project. Copyright infringement has legal consequences.

Avoiding plagiarism is part of the culture of scholarship in which credible ideas build upon each other through a path that can be traced and verified by other readers and future researchers. Researchers cite their sources to give credit to authors of original ideas and to allow others to trace those ideas to earlier work, to learn details of the history of the idea. Plagiarism is a matter of scholarly ethics. For more information, see University Library tutorial "Exploring Academic Integrity".

What do I need to know about topics such as copyright and file sharing computer systems to protect myself legally and ethically while using information resources at Indiana University?

See an overview of "IT-Safety" topics at page "Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing and copyright safety".

I am developing a multimedia project, writing a dissertation, etc. How can I determine if the materials I want to include are copyrighted? How can I determine if I can use copyrighted material?

You are free to use works that fall within the public domain. Otherwise your work must either fall under an exception of copyright law, be permitted by the copyright owner, or fall under fair use.

You can use Student Tools resources "Public Domain Slider", "Fair Use Evaluator", and "Copyright Genie" to determine any limits of use for materials. Your program's subject librarian and subject resource guide can assist and support you with these and other research tasks.

How can I find and cite media resources to use for a class project without violating copyright laws?

See the following library guides:

Student Tools

Public domain resources are items such as images, videos, sound files, etc. which you can use for various purposes, including academic projects, without paying copyright fees.

Fair Use is an exception to copyright law that may allow you to use a copyrighted item for certain purposes without obtaining permission.

Use the Copyright Genie to establish a record to show, if needed in the future, that you investigated your right to use an item.

To use someone else's work, you also need to cite it. See University Library DIY Resource page

Find media content that you may be able to share, use and remix. Media creators can adopt a Creative Commons license agreement to specify if they are willing to allow their resource to be used in certain ways for free. Use Creative Commons' "Use and Remix" tool to search for media files from a group of independent organizations. See the tip at lower left of search page: "Please note..." to "... verify that the work is actually under a CC license...".