Copyright Laws in Education

What you need to know....

What is Copyright Law?

Copyright is a legal process that gives ownership to an original piece of art, literature or text to the author. It protect's the author from theft of his or her ideas and ensures he or she is paid for the work. The author reserves the right to determine how the work may be used by others in the future.

The Dos and Don'ts of Copyright in Education


  • Material under public domain is free for use (federal government documents, materials produced prior to 1923 or those produced prior to 1977 without a copyright notice, works where the owner has declared free use)
  • Short quotation are fair use
  • Facts and ideas are fair use, but not cutting and pasting the actual document
  • Items that are not protected under the Copyright Law include: names, familiar symbols, listings of ingredients or contents, titles, short phrases, slogans or procedures
  • Use a company trademark or logo when analyzing or criticizing
  • You may use a company name so long as you are trying to act as a spokes person on the behalf of the company


  • Crediting the author is not enough; you must have explicit permission for use
  • A copyright message is not necessary; just because it is not there doesn't mean it is not copyrighted
  • Creative Commons does not mean free for the taking; check with the type of licence it is using
  • Even if you are not making something to sell, you can still infringe on copyright law
  • Removing copyrighted material does not make it ok

Legal Issues Answers

Question: Copyright laws- are there rules for something as simple as cutting and pasting an image?

YES! The images are protected under the Copyright Law and it belongs to the owner. Just becuase there may not be a copyright statement does not mean is if free for the taking.

Question: What are copyright policies when researching and citing on the internet?

Original authors must be cited. Remember that facts are free use, but do not copy material. Be sure you obtain explicit permission for use if you require a piece of a work for your research/presentation.