Welcome to the Legal Sources for Multimedia Projects Guide
Please note that this guide is not a legal document and it is provided as an educational tool. You are encouraged to contact the United States Copyright Office, for more information about U.S. Copyright Law.
This guide offers resources to assist in locating materials in public domain or under Creative Commons licensing. Students working on multimedia projects are encouraged to use copyright-free materials or apply Fair Use principles to copyrighted materials. It is your responsibility to use these materials wisely and follow the law.
Terms to Know
- Copyright: "Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed." Learn more with "Copyright in 90 Seconds" podcasts from Denison University.
- Creative Commonsworks to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in “the commons” — the body of work that is available to the public for free and legal sharing, use, repurposing, and remixing.
- Seven licenses provide a flexible range of protections and freedoms for authors, artists, and educators.
- Fair Use: Fair use (Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright code) provides parameters for the legal use of copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright holder. The law mandates that four factors be considered in determining whether or not a use is fair.
- The purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
- The nature of the copyrighted work;
- The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the work as a whole; and
- The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
- Learn more using the Fair Use Evaluator.
- Public Domain: Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.
- Use the Public Domain Slider to see if you can use the work.
- In general, works published prior to 1923 and the publications of the United States government are in the public domain and may be freely used. See the Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States guide from Cornell University.