This image/file is licensed under Creative Commons ShareAlike 1.0 License.

Below are lists of resources that help both students and teacher understand the concept of Copyright and Fair Use.

The content on this page was not prepared by attorneys, is not to be considered "legal counsel", and is intended only to be informational to students and educators on the topics of copyright and fair use. All of the content on this page is the result of research, which is cited in the Copyright References page.


Copyright is the protection provided to the creators of "original works of authorship." Copyright gives the creator exclusive rights to sell or license his or her works and reward his or her efforts. It is important for anyone who creates and/or uses copyrightable materials -- including kids -- to understand what the U.S. copyright law permits, what it restricts, and why. 1

A work is protected by copyright as soon as it’s fixed in tangible form. “Fixed in tangible form” means you can see or hear or touch the work, whether by looking, listening to, or touching the thing itself ... or perceiving it by means of a machine or device (like a movie projector or a computer)

You don’t have to register with the Copyright Office to get a copyright. You used to, but not anymore. (But you do need a registration if you want to sue someone for copyright infringement).

You don’t have to mark your work as copyrighted, either. (That used to be required, too.) But marking a work as copyrighted gives people notice that someone owns the legal rights, so most copyright owners do put notices on their work.2

What Works Are Protected? 3

Fair Use

FAIR USE: "Fair use" is the right of the public to make reasonable use of copyrighted material in special circumstances without the Copyright Owner's Permission. The United States Copyright Act recognizes that fair use of a copyrighted work may be used "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research." Factors to be considered include (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is for a commercial purpose or is for non-profit educational purposes; (2) what kind of work is the copyrighted work (for instance, is it creative or factual); (3) the amount and importance of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential commercial market for or value of the copyrighted work. Whether or not a fair use has been made of a copyrighted work is not always easy to determine and there have been many lawsuits to determine whether or not a use is "fair." Where there is doubt about whether something qualifies for the fair use exception, you should request a License from the Copyright Holder.4

Public Domain

PUBLIC DOMAIN: Works that are in the public domain belong to everyone and can be freely used without compensating the authors. There are many reasons why a work may be in the public domain. For example, works consisting entirely of information that is commonly available and that contain no original authorship are in the public domain. Works that previously were entitled to copyright protection enter the public domain when the Term of the copyright has expired. Under the 1909 Copyright Act, if a work was published without a Copyright Notice, protection was lost and the work entered the public domain when it was first Published.5

Determining What's in the Public Domain 6

Discussion of Copyright, Fair Use & Public Domain


From Cyberbee

Incredibly fun interactive Q & A on all things related to Copyright--just click on a student to see the question and the answer.


Copyright basics and FAQs explained in a kid-friendly way.


Entertaining and engaging website from the students in the master's degree program in Educational Technology Leadership at The George Washington University.

From the Copyright Bay website:

It is our hope that, by the time you are through browsing this website:

  • You, as a teacher, will be able to apply fair use practices to the classroom or to non-traditional settings.

  • You, as a teacher, will also be able to identify copyright practices that are questionable so that infringements may be avoided in the future.


From Public Domain Sherpa website:

This site provides information on finding and using public domain material in the United States.

Copyright-Friendly and Copyleft Images and Sound (Mostly!) for Use in Media Projects and Web Pages, Blogs, Wikis, etc.

Most of the media in these collections (exhaustive list) are attached to generous copyright licensing. Though you may not need to ask permission to use them when publishing on the Web for educational purposes, you should cite or attribute these images to their creators unless otherwise notified! If you see any copyright notices on these pages, read them for further instructions.

Note: always check individual licensing notices before publishing on the Web or broadcasting!

Be sure and check out Creative Commons (CC) licensing background--important for teachers and students to understand CC license options.