Copyright and Fair Use

What is the difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement?

Plagiarism is claiming that you are the author of someone else's work and is an ethical issue. Copyright infringement is using someone else's work without permission and is a matter of law. If a work is copyright protected, the work, in part or whole, may only be used without permission from the copyright owner under certain circumstances. For information relating to copyright law, exceptions and more, visit

Are facts protected by copyright?

No. Copyright is a protection given to authors of "creative works" like images, music, performances, movies, and literature. You are free to use facts and data reported in the news and scholarly articles in your work (e.g., research and writing assignments) as long as you give credit to the author or creator. You are also able to use copyright-friendly sources such as works in the public domain and those created under Creative Commons (CC) licenses. For more information on the public domain and Creative Commons (CC) licenses, visit

Is content created and affixed with a Creative Commons (CC) license free to reuse, adapt and share?

Not absolutely. Creative Commons (CC) licenses are copyright licenses that creators (and other rights holders) can use to offer certain usage rights to the public, while reserving other rights. Visit CC link about for more info.

Are all images and streaming video found online free to use?

No. Images and other content found online are not, by nature, free to use. Creative content is protected the moment it is created and in "tangible form”, whether fixed in print, born digitally, or digitized. And, a copyright notice or symbol is not required for a work to be protected. For information on copyright-friendly resources, visit

How long does copyright protection last?

The length of a work's copyright will depend on when it was created and other factors. The short answer is copyright lasts the length of the author’s life + 70 years. Once a copyright lapses or expires, the work falls into the public domain and may be used without permission of the owner. (It is still good form to give credit to the author or creator.) Use the Public Domain Slider created by the ALA Office of Information Technology to help determine the copyright status of a work published in the U.S. after 1923,

Does the fair use doctrine in copyright law allow for the use of copyrighted material in all educational settings and circumstances?

No, it does not. Fair use depends on the facts of your situation, how you use a copyrighted work, and whether the use is fair. Fair use is never certain unless a judge in a court of law makes that determination. To view a fair use checklist and other resources, visit

If I use less than 30 seconds of a copyright protected song or less than 50 words of copyright protected text, is that considered 'fair use'?

There are no word- or time-limits that dictate ‘fair use’ of a copyright protected work. Whether a use is legal (or ‘fair’) is determined on a case-by-case basis.