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Advanced Library Research Techniques: Copyright and Fair Use

This guide will help you improve your research skills and develop expertise in evaluating, comparing, and selecting reliable and credible sources of information.



Before You Start

Everything on the Internet is not free for you to use.


The purpose of copyright is to protect digital items just as it does physical ones.  It can be very difficult to see what copyright or license applies or track down a creator in the digital environment.  Here are a few tips:

1. Use media with stated licenses.

This includes Creative Commons and Public Domain; these works will be clearly labeled so that you understand what you need to do to edit or reuse them.  You will need give credit where credit is due though.  Attribution is part of Creative Commons and items will typically state this.

2. See if your situation qualifies as Fair Use.

If you are using these materials in the classroom, as a student or instructor, your work may be subject to different guidelines. Remember, you will still need to provide citation information to give proper credit to your sources.  When considering Fair Use, think about the academic use of what you are doing.

3. Create your own media.

Technology has made creating your own images and media is easier than ever before. Use a camera, audio or video recorder to make your own media.  

4. Purchase the rights to use items.

There are many sites where you can pay to be able to use images, videos, etc.  

Creative Commons and Public Domain Images

Creative Commons & Public Domain images

Fair Use - What is Copyright? (Source: University of South Florida)

Fair Use - Using Copyrighted Materials (Source: University of South Florida)