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Copyright and Fair Use


Plagiarism Today (The 3 Count)

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Creative Commons

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Center for Internet and Society

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Library of Congress: Creativity at Work

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Don't Forget

You are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of any materials you may wish to use, for investigating the owner of the copyright, and for obtaining permission for your intended use.

Fun Feeds

RSS feeds from around the web with a variety of contemporary applications of copyright law and fair use principles:

copyright FAQs

How do I know if the work I want to use is copyrighted?

Copyright protection begins under the law as soon as a tangible work is created, whether it is published or not. For the most part, assume that the material you are seeking to use is copyrighted unless it is very old (pre-1923) or produced by the US government. For more information about determining if an item is in the public domain, see the following two resources:

Can I photocopy an article and distribute it to all the students in my class?

The answer to this is:  it depends.  If your use of the article can meet the Fair Use criteria, you will probably be fine.  In general, it may be best to provide a link to a scholarly article rather than to provide a photocopy.  Additionally, the law applies differently to face-to-face teaching situations and online teaching or resources.  Please read more about this at:

Can I request a PDF of three chapters of a book through Interlibrary Loan?

A general rule of thumb is that you cannot copy and re-use more than 10 percent of a work.  If you need more than one chapter, please submit a request to borrow the entire book from another institution (if it is not owned by HWS). Read more about fair use here:

What sorts of things are protected by copyright?

Copyright applies to literary works, musical works, dramatic works, choreographic works, pictorial works, motion pictures, sound recordings and some architectural works.  For more about the wide range of works which are protected by copyright see:

How do I know if something falls under the "fair use" guidelines?

The Fair Use principles have evolved along with copyright law in the US. They are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. However, they have the weight of law and are utilized by courts to determine if the re-use of material is legal or not.  We recommend using the Fair Use checklist created by Columbia University to determine if your use of a copyrighted work is acceptable:

Are most old books in the public domain?

Most works originally published prior to 1923 are in the public domain.  Be aware, however, that performances of works in the public domain are themselves protected by copyright.  For example, Beethoven’s symphonies are in the public domain.  However, the 1991 London Records recording of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing the symphonies is copyright protected. See more at: 

How can I safely share my own work on the Internet?

A great place to start if you are interested in licensing your own work and sharing it under your own terms is the Creative Commons.  Creative Commons provides free, easy-to-use copyright licenses.  Learn more here:

If something is out-of-print, isn't it in the public domain?

Out-of-print does not mean out-of-copyright. You’ll still need to get permission to use a work which is no longer in print by contacting the publisher.  For more on this:

Isn't everything on the Internet in the public domain?

No, everything on the Internet is not in the public domain.  Just because you can find something on the Internet does not mean that it is unprotected by copyright.  You may generally read and view and listen to works on the Internet.  However downloading is copying ... and can be a copyright infringement.  For more, see:

What is the public domain?

This term refers to creative works which are not protected by any intellectual property laws.  There are four basic ways a work enters the public domain: 1) copyright expires 2) copyright owner fails to renew copyright correctly 3) copyright owner chooses to place work in public domain or 4) copyright law does not protect the type of work.  For more on this: