The Edwin H. Mookini Library faculty and staff do not provide interpretations of copyright laws. For your personal and professional guidance and interpretation of copyright laws, we recommend utilizing the sources listed on this page.

Please note that patrons using scanners, computer printers, microform reader / printers and full-text databases are responsible for copyright compliance. The following copyright compliance reminder has been placed on all scanners, computer printers, and microform reader / printers:

“The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyright material. The person using this equipment is liable for any infringement.”

On this page:

What Is Copyright?

You do know that you can’t just copy and paste from the internet, right?

Copyright is a form of protection given to authors of original works. The word copyright means the exclusive right of authors to make copies of their works. This includes literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. The purpose of copyright is to encourage creativity by authors and artists.

Copyright 101 from Cornell University

Copyright Basics - video (6 minutes) from Copyright Clearance Center
If you use images, music, video or other content from the internet, you must cite the source just like you do for a book or journal article (check your citation style manual for the proper formatting).

Annual Copyright Reminder from Stanford University “highlights common campus copyright concerns and outlines fundamental elements of US copyright law.”

Why You Should Worry About Copyright

If a work you want to use is copyrighted, you will need to ask the copyright owner for permission to use that work.

If a work has more than one author, the authors are co-owners of the copyright.

Writings and other works are copyrighted as soon as they are put in a tangible form with no notice necessary.

These copyrighted works include items posted on the internet. This means that you cannot just copy and paste things from the internet, including photos. If you use images from the internet, you must cite the source just like you do for a book or journal article (check your citation style manual for the proper formatting).

Copyright and Video

Cornell University Law School has a page on 17 U.S. Code § 110 - “Limitations on exclusive rights: Exemption of certain performances and displays” and also a Notes tab to help with understanding.

University of North Texas addresses showing videos via Netflix Streaming .

Public Performance of Movies - Copyright Does Apply!

Fair Use

Sometimes a copyrighted work can be used in a limited manner under the principle of fair use, including criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

The four factors used in determining fair use are the:

  1. purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. nature of the copyrighted work
  3. amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

More details about the four factors are available from Columbia University.

  • Although Columbia does provide a checklist, the Fair Use Checklist from the American Library Association has the same information on one page instead of two.
  • Also available: an interactive Fair Use Evaluator.

Helpful Websites and Tutorials

United States Copyright Office
Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians (.pdf)
Copyright Clearance Center
“When you need permission to re-use content, turn to the rights licensing experts for simple, easy-to-use solutions.”
Copyright on Campus
Seven-minute video
Copyright Genie
Helping you find out if a work is covered by U.S. copyright and calculating its terms of protection.
Bound by Law
Copyright and Fair Use in comic book form!
Coursera - Free Online Courses
Copyright for Educators and Librarians and Copyright for Multimedia
Stanford University Libraries
Copyright & Fair Use
University of Texas
Copyright Crash Course

Creative Commons (CC)

Creative Commons is a nonprofit corporation working to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in “the commons” - the body of work that is available to the public for free and legal sharing, use, repurposing, and remixing. Authors can choose one of six different license conditions , covering the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright - all rights reserved - and the public domain - no rights reserved.

Flickr: Creative Commons
Contains many CC licensed photos
Another platform for CC licensed music
Provides CC licensed sound samples
How to access and/or upload CC videos on YouTube


Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 - U.S. Copyright Office Summary (.pdf)

Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act (2002) - Copyright Crash Course section from University of Texas Libraries includes a TEACH Act Checklist