Skip to Main Content
UWF Libraries logo
Your opinion counts! Please give us feedback.

Scholarly Communication: Copyright & Creative Commons


Selecting and using resources for teaching, research, and publication have the added challenge of copyright. That is the exclusive ownership held by the creators of a wide variety of creative works. These articles, books, art, videos, etc...have complex aspects for use ranging from tight restrictions that require permissions from the Copyright Clearance Center for any type of use to works in the Public Domain which can be used by anyone in any way.  

The information and links below will allow you to learn more about copyright, fair use, Creative Commons licenses, and Public Domain. All play important roles in the creation of today's curriculum and academic research. 

Unanswered questions? Contact your Scholarly Communications Librarian, Cindy Gruwell at

Citing Previous Work

Using and citing your previous work is not always a bad thing, however you might want to checkout these guidelines before you take that leap.

Text Recycling Research Project

Understanding Text Recycling: A guide for researchers

Best Practices for Researchers

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Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.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")

For more information check out Copyright Basics

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

Fair Use

Fair Use Logo

"Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances." --

Copyright law is quite complex and is constantly evolving largely due to changes in technology. Decisions made in copyright infringement cases will help clarify copyright law, but that will take time. In the meantime, this ambiguity works in favor of the student, teacher, educational institution, and library. 

There are four factors to consider when deciding to fairly use copyrighted materials (see the checklist linked below), in fact, these are the properties courts assess when Fair Use issues end up in court.  Keep them in mind.

Fair use 5 elements for review


Favors Fair Use Opposes Fair Use
  • Teaching
  • Research / Scholarship
  • Non-Profit Educational Institution
  • Restricted access (to students / others)
  • Profiting from the use
  • Entertainment
  • Commercial activity
  • Open access to anyone or by payment of a fee
  • Small quantity
  • Portion used is not central or significant to entire work
  • Amount is appropriate for educational purpose
  • Large portion or whole work used
  • Portion used is central to work or "heart of the work"
  • Published work
  • Factual or nonfiction based
  • Important to educational objectives
  • Unpublished work
  • Highly creative work (art, novels, films, music, etc.)
  • No significant effect on the market or potential market for copyrighted work
  • No similar product marketed by the copyright holder
  • User owns lawfully acquired or purchased copy of original work
  • Could replace sale of copyrighted work
  • Significantly impairs market or potential market for copyrighted work
  • You made it accessible on the Web or in other public forum
  • Repeated or long term use

Learn more about Fair Use and check the "fairness" of your use of copyrighted resources using the  Fair Use Evaluator or you may want to check out a Fair Use checklist like this one at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Library.

The UWF Fair Use Checklist

Creative Commons

You may choose to openly share your work with others by retaining your copyright and assigning your work a Creative Commons License.  This license does not replace copyright, rather it enhances how you as an author allow people to use your work. 

"Creative Commons provides free, easy-to-use legal tools that give everyone from individual “user-generated content” creators to major companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to pre-clear usage rights to creative work they own the copyright to. CC licenses let people easily change their copyright terms from the     default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.” -- What is Creative Commons

Creative Commons Licenses explained at a glance.

For more information check out the Creative Commons Handout Below

Public Domain

Public Domain Image 

"The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as  copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it." -- Welcome to the Public Domain - Rich Stim      

The timing for when a particular type of format of work enters the public domain varies widely depending on a variety of factors including but not limited to:

  •  Unpublished vs. published works
  •  Date first published in the U.S.
  •  Publications by foreign nationals       
  • Publications by U.S. citizens living abroad
  • Sound recordings published outside the U.S.     

                      Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States  -  Cornell University Library