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MFJS 2140 Introduction to Newswriting: Images and Copyright and Fair Use

Public Domain and Creative Commons: A Guide to Works You Can Use Freely


Copyright, Public Domain, Licensing, and Intellectual Property

Here is a helpful list of resources pertaining to copyright, licensing, intellectual property, and other related topics for legally and ethically using materials for teaching and research.

Fair Use

  • Fair Use affords the public the right to to use portions of copyrighted materials in some circumstances-- usually for comment, criticism or parody--freely and without permission of the copyright holder.
  • Fair use of an image does not mean that you don't have to cite the source of the image, you still need to cite the source!
  • Fair use law is somewhat vague and subjective, and cases are decided on an individual basis.
  • Educational fair use is not specifically outlined in Copyright Law, but guidelines have been developed that provide educational institutions with some direction. See Educational Fair Use Guidelines for Digital Images.


Image and text used with permission from Jill Markgraf

Public Domain

No permission is needed to use works in the public domain because they are not protected by copyright. Most works enter the public domain when the law no longer considers them under copyright. Visit the above links (in the Copyright section) for more information.

Diego Velázquez [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Is this photograph in the public domain?

According to "this work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus100 years or fewer." The Wikimedia Foundation adds, "faithful reproductions of two-dimensional public domain works of art are public domain, and that claims to the contrary represent an assault on the very concept of a public domain". However, the Prado Museum owns the painting and therefore, can theoretically claim rights to the painting. The photographer might also be able to claim rights to this reproduction of Velazquez's painting. The law is unclear in this area. What do you think?

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