Copyright, Fair Use and Creative Commons

Three terms you should know and understand:

Copyright – Grants the creator of a work the exclusive rights to use or not use the work as he/she sees fit.

Copyright law protects movies, TV shows, books, news articles, plays, Web pages, e-mails, bulletin boards, images, music lyrics, sound and video files, and postings to discussion groups. The act of publishing automatically means it is copyright protected.

For an animated, sing-along explanation of copyright, see this video from the Media Education Lab.

Fair Use – Allows others to use part of a copyrighted work in certain situations like criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, and research.

Fair use is based on the idea that there is no original thought; every idea is influence by other ideas.

Fair use is designed to so that someone can use part of the original work. For example, a music journalist who is reviewing a new album can quote the lyrics of a song without seeking permission.

In fair use cases, courts look at four factors:
1. The purpose and character of the use
2. The nature of the copyrighted work
3. The amount of the portion used
4. The effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Here are some summaries of fair use cases.

For an animated, sing-along explanation of user rights, watch this video from the Media Education Lab.

Creative Commons – Allows creators to protect their work by choosing from a variety of types of licensing, rather than relying on copyright law. The licenses allow creators to maintain protection from unauthorized use, but still allow various forms of copying, sharing, and modifying.

See for more info and to get a license for your work.

Takeaways for Journalism Students

1. Always seek to do original reporting first. Get your own quotes, take your own photos, record your own audio, shoot your own videos.

2. Credit your own work. Decide how you want others to use it.

3. Assume that anything you encounter on the Internet is copyrighted, unless it is expressly states otherwise.

4. If you need a stock photo or other kind of media, use Creative Commons work whenever possible.

5. If you are using copyrighted work, seek permission.

6. If you are using copyrighted work and you do not obtain permission, ask yourself the following questions to determine if the use is covered under fair use.
-Is my use of the work for news, commentary or criticism?
-How much of the original work am I using?
-Is my use transformative?
-What is the context of the work?
-Does my use lower the value of the work?

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