Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if something is copyrighted?
Copyright protections are given to any original work that is “fixed in any tangible medium of expression at the work’s creation.” Facts, ideas, U.S. government works and any work published before 1923 are considered public domain.
See: Copyright Ownership
How do I know whether my use of copyrighted materials is protected under the “Fair Use” clause of the Copyright Act?
Fair use is a legal doctrine that allows the public to make limited uses of copyrighted works without permission. Fair use may not be what you expect. Therefore, do not assume that a nonprofit, educational use or giving credit for the source of the work, or that limiting access to materials to students in the class creates an inherent fair use. Fair use depends on a balancing of four factors, which may be addressed by a variety of means.
See: Fair Use - 4 Factors and Fair Use Analysis Tools
Can I repost items I find on the web without having to worry about copyright? Isn’t all of that stuff in the public domain?
Many people mistakenly assume that everything posted on the Internet is in the public domain. It is vital for you to know that current copyright law gives legal protection to nearly all text, images, audiovisual recordings, and other materials that are posted on the Internet, even if the original works do not include any statement about copyright.
See: Getting Permission from the Copyright Holder
Copyright at The Claremont Colleges
Taken from the Claremont Copyright Home Page:
The copyright policy of the Claremont Colleges affirms each institution’s commitment to comply with the United States law pertaining to copyright; to respect faithfully the property rights of authors and their assignees; to educate members of the campus community about copyright law; and to exercise vigorously the rights and responsibilities granted under this law.
Therefore this policy encourages all members of each campus community to publish their papers, books, and other works in order to share their knowledge openly with colleagues and the public. The policy adheres to the long-standing academic tradition that creators of works own the copyrights in works resulting from their scholarly, pedagogical, and creative activities. This principle is the foundation for our policy on copyright.
This principle also underlies the commitment of the Claremont Colleges to fostering an environment of respect for and responsible use of the intellectual property of others. The Claremont Colleges are committed to helping members of the community comply with copyright laws by providing resources to help individuals make informed, careful, and situation-sensitive decisions about the lawful and fair use of work created by others.
This policy affirms that the primary purpose of copyright legislation is to foster the creation and dissemination of intellectual works for the public welfare. The doctrine of fair use evolved from a recognition that the public should be allowed a limited use of copyrighted materials in a socially beneficial manner without the rights holders' permission. Further fair use is intrinsically aligned with the notion that education deserves preferential treatment and should not be unduly inhibited.
At the essence of the Copyright Act is the fact that when you are considering the copying of any original work, you need to determine whether:
- the work is protected by copyright,
- the work is available under a license agreement, or
- whether the intended use qualifies as a fair use, as determined using a case-by-case four-factor analysis.
If the intended use is not a fair use, then seek permission from the copyright owner.
Read the full Claremont Copyright Policy
Mark Twain said,
"Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet."
Thank you to those institutions whose copyright information helped inform and in some cases provide the content for this site, in particular: Cornell University. Carleton College, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and Grinell College, and a special thank you for the assistance of the consultant to the Claremont Colleges, Mary Minow.
Please see the Additional Resources tabs for links to other copyright resources including those that helped to inform the creation of this guide.