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Copyright Policies and Guidelines

How can I tell if something is subject to copyright protection or not?

  • The easiest way to know if a material is subject to copyright protection is to look for the copyright notice: © However, works do not require a notice to be under copyright protection – all original works are protected by copyright when created, even if the creator/author does not register the work.
  • The Copyright Genie can assist you in determining a work’s copyright and terms of protection.
  •  Circular 22 from the U.S. Copyright Office offers tips on how to determine if a work is copyrighted.

How do I find out who the copyright owner might be?

If the work is under copyright, what sorts of things can I do with it?

What exceptions or limitations to copyright might apply to my use?

  • Generally, works in the public domain do not have active copyright protection.
  • “Open licensing does not replace copyright. Open licenses work with copyright to promote shared use.” (Open Licenses (2021). In Community College Consortium for OER,, “Open Licenses”)
    • Creative Commons licenses are good examples of open licenses.
  • Under the Fair Use Doctrine, small portions of copyrighted works may be used without permission for teaching or research purposes as well as for news information or reporting, criticism, or comment: 
    • The four factors of Fair Use should be applied to determine if the use of a copyrighted work would be considered fair.
    • Citations must still be used.
  • The TEACH Act allows the educational use of copyrighted material in distance learning, with some limitations.