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Copyright Resource Guide: When & How You Can Use a Work

Tools for Determining Copyright
& Fair Use

Fair Use & Copyright Videos

About Creative Commons Videos

When and how can I use someone else's media, such as a video, image, or music?

In the U.S., there are four main ways to determine when and how you can use someone else's work.

  1. The work is "Open Content"
  2. The work is in the "Public Domain"
  3. Your use of the work falls under the "Fair Use" doctrine of U.S. Copyright Law
  4. The author has explicitly defined the rights of use through "Creative Commons" or other licensing mechanisms

About Public Domain & Copyright

Works in the "Public Domain" are not protected by copyright law and are free for you to use without permission.* 

In the U.S., works can enter the Public Domain in a number of ways, including when protection expires as set by law, and/or if the right's holder explicitly gives the work to the public without copyright protection. In some instances, works are not protected by copyright to begin with and therefore fall into the public domain (this includes things such as facts, U.S. Government publications, short phrases, etc.)

*Even if something is in the Public Domain, you still must cite your sources and/or credit the author

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About Fair Use & Copyright

The Fair Use doctrine in U.S. Copyright Law.

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

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About Creative Commons Licensing

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that works "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." (

Creative Commons licenses provide a way for people to share their work and make it available for others to build on and reuse.

Check out the Creative Commons website for more information and details about CC licenses.

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