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This guide is intended to help HPU students and faculty navigate some academic copyright issues and find free-to-use media resources such as audio, images, and video for use in multimedia projects and assignments.

Guide Introduction

Using media materials (e.g. images, audio, and video) is a crucial element in multimedia assignments, ePortfolios, websites, blogs, and more. Educators utilize articles, essays, poems, and media materials throughout their classes. However, the copyright status of any material used must be considered and this determines the media which can be used in projects.

This guide is intended to inform on copyright issues, help users navigate free media resources with mostly unrestricted copyright, and better educate patrons about why media intellectual property issues matter for educational projects and the professional world. 

HPU librarians cannot give legal advice or offer opinions on what is permitted or prohibited with regard to copyright law!

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) to the creators of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available for both published and unpublished works. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  • To reproduce the work in copies or phono records;

  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work;

  • To distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;

  • To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;

  • To display the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work; and

  • In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

In addition to copyright, certain authors of works of visual art also have the rights of attribution and integrity as described in section 106A of the 1976 Copyright Act.

It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the copyright law to the copyright holder. 

Taken from Artists Rights Society, Copyright Basics 

Fair Use for Students & Educators

Fair Use is using copyrighted work under certain conditions, such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and parody.  

When thinking about fair use, it's good to ask yourself these four questions:

  • What is the purpose of your use?
  • What is the nature of the copyrighted work?
  • How much of the work are you using?
  • What effect does the use have on the potential market for the work?

The US Copyright Office has created online circulars in order to provide information to the public about copyright issues. The information below is summarized from Circ. 21, Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians.

In 1976, the Agreement on Guidelines for Classroom Copying in Not-For-Profit Educational Institutions with respect to books and periodicals was created to provide some formalized suggestions for the use of copyrighted material in educational settings. These guidelines operate around concepts of brevity, spontaneity, and cumulative effect, summarized as:

  • Brevity - the amount of the copyrighted work that will be used.
    • 250 words or less from a poem, 10% or less of a book or article, and one image, chart, or diagram from a book or periodical may be used
  • Spontaneity - the length of time between the decision to use the copyrighted material and when it will be used.
    • The copying is at the instance and inspiration of the individual educator, and the decision to use the work and the moment of its use are so close in time that it would be unreasonable to expect a timely reply to a request for permission
  • Cumulative effect - the possible effects this use of the material would have on the copyright holder.
    • The copying of the material is for only one course in the school in which the copies are made. Not more than one short poem, article, story, essay or two excerpts may be copied from the same author, nor more than three from the same collective work or periodical volume during one class term. There shall not be more than nine instances of such multiple copying for one course during one class term

Creative Commons

Creative Commons logoCreative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.  There are many reasons why Creative Commons is one of the best places to get photographs for multimedia work.  

Their free, easy-to-use copyright licenses provide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work — on conditions of your choice. CC licenses let you easily change your copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.”

Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright and enable you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs.

Creative Commons also has a great search engine for openly licensed images, video, and more.

Useful Links