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Copyright, Fair Use, and More

Copyright & Creative Commons Presentation

Copyright Explained (2018). Understanding Copyright, Public Domain, and Fair Use.

Copyright Basics

Copyright Symbol 

You may be surprised, but your probably the author of many copyrighted documents and/or manuscripts. As  soon as you create a work in a permanent or fixed format you are the holder of the copyright.  Unless you  give permission to others you have the sole rights to your work.  This may have a myriad of implications and  something to keep in mind when you share your work.

Copyright covers both published and unpublished works. The work does not have to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office nor have the © symbol.

Type of works included are:

  • literary, musical (including words and music), or dramatic works
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings

The length of time a work is covered by copyright protection is extensive. Basic rules in the United States include:

  • If published before 1923, the work is in the Public Domain
  • If published between 1923 and 1978 without a copyright notice, the work is in the Public Domain
  • Currently, copyright is held for at least 70 years after the death of the author, but copyright protection may be renewed and extended for longer periods

This chart, created by Peter Hirtle, provides a detailed outline of the current U.S. copyright law related to duration of copyright:

Keep in mind that Copyright protection does not extend to:

  • any idea, procedure, process, system, title, principle, or discovery
  • works consisting entirely of information which is common knowledge and containing no original authorship such as facts, standard calendars, height, and weight charts, etc.
  • any document which is in the public domain

Items in the public domain include:

  • Works for which the copyright has expired and has not been renewed
  • Works of the U.S. Government created by government employees
  • Works for which the author has designated use is available within the public domain (although the author may have designated some requirements such as providing credit to the author which is known as "attribution")

This information is intended as a guide to basic issues of copyright in an academic setting, especially student-related issues. It is not intended as legal advice. UWF students, faculty, and researchers should consult with the University's legal counsel on specific copyright issues, especially if the publication or access of a document or website will have national or world-wide distribution.

Cornell University: Copyright Term and Public Domain:

For more information check out Copyright Basics

The Copyright Genie - Go through a checklist to check for copyright status

Requesting Copyright Permission

It is still possible to use copyrighted material even though the proposed use fails to meet Fair Use Guidelines. In those cases, it is necessary to seek permission from the person or organization holding the copyright. Who holds the copyright is not always easy to ascertain, but there are some general rules of thumb with which to start:

  • Print materials (whether available as print or electronic format): the publisher or the author
  • Music: the producer, record company or artist
  • Movies: the studio
  • Photographs/Graphics: the photographer or artist or organization for which they work or to which they sold the item
  • Websites: the webmaster or author or organization

The U.S. Copyright Office provides a brochure providing advice on how to determine the copyright status of a work at

When you are unsure where to turn to find the copyright holder, there are some industry organizations which can help. A very good overview of these organizations, organized by format of material, is on a website, "Getting Permission," produced by Stanford University at