Home > Copyright & Fair Use
Question: I’ve found a website that I want to use as part of the materials I’m handing out for my workshop. Since there’s no copyright information on the site, I’m free to print the website and use it as I wish.
Answer: False. As soon as a work is created in tangible form—whether it’s a novel, poem, choreography, photo, etc.—the copyright belongs to the creator (unless a work for hire). Even if the work doesn’t contain the copyright symbol and isn’t registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Question: I’m preparing a publication and want to use 3 of the 4 tables from an article I’ve found. I need to get permission from the copyright holder.
Answer: In general, true. Even if your work is for educational purposes, it’s a good idea to ask for permission to use such a large portion of the work of another.
Question: Actually, I’ve decided to use only one of the tables from the book mentioned above. I don’t need to get permission from the copyright holder.
Answer: In general, true. Since you’re using only a small portion of the work of another, it’s probably safe to say that permission isn’t necessary (provided, on balance, you’re following other guidelines favoring fair use, such as not using the work for commercial purposes, not causing the creator to lose income, not using the work year after year). You must, however, give proper credit to the work you’re borrowing.
Question: The major purpose of U.S. copyright law is to enable creators of original works to be able to earn a living from their labor.
Answer: True. A creator’s ability to continue producing original works is seen as a benefit to society.
Question: If I have permission to use a photo from the photographer, that’s all I need.
Answer: False. To be safe, make sure the photographer has the signed consent of any individual appearing in the photo. Exceptions are shots of crowds or shots in which the person is unidentifiable or if the photo is for editorial use, such as for inclusion in a newsletter. If you’re going to use the photo in a promotional brochure or display, however, your best bet is making certain of consent, even if the usage is for educational purposes.
Question: I’ve gotten permission to use Jane Smith’s publication verbatim as part of my new publication. I’m the creator of the new publication, so I don’t need to give credit to Jane Smith anywhere on the publication.
Answer: False. Always give credit when you borrow the work of another.
Question: Pretty much anything on the web is fair game for me to use for educational purposes.
Answer: False. In general, treat works you find on the web the same as works you find in print. Assume that a work on the web holds a copyright. Make a good faith effort to find who or what organization created the work and ask for permission to use the work.
Last updated: 05/31/2010