Copyright FAQ

What is Copyright?
  Copyright refers to a Federal law that protects work created by you or anyone else from being copied, changed, or used without permission.  In other words, when you create something like a story, photograph, poem, song, or drawing, it belongs to you and others have to get your permission to use it. 

What is "Fair Use"?
  “Fair Use” refers to a set of guidelines that allows you to use parts of copyrighted works for educational purposes, such as writing a report or making a multimedia presentation.  The basic guidelines for “Fair Use” are covered HERE.

Do I always have to follow the copyright laws and guidelines?
  You may avoid the copyright issue by simply writing or emailing the person who created the work and asking permission to use it.  Getting written permission like this is always the safest way to make sure your report or presentation is legal, and it's easy, thanks to the convenience of email.

How can I make sure my own work is copyrighted?
  Your work is automatically copyrighted.  You may indicate this by putting a notice in your work - something like “Copyright 2006, My Name” (using your own name, of course).

Can I register my copyrighted work?
  You may register your creation with the U.S. Copyright Office, ( but you would probably only want to do this is you planned on selling it or if you want to display or present it in public (it costs money to register a work).

How long does a copyright last?
  A work is protected until 70 years after the death of its creator.  An exception to this is that an work that was published before 1923 is currently not protected by copyright.  Another way of saying that something is not protected by copyright is that is “in the public domain”.

What about Remixes and Mashups?

We live in a ‘remix culture’, a culture dominated by student creators. These creators are demanding a much broader right, a right to mashup and remix material – to take on the role of producers – to cut, paste, sample or jam with content, in order to produce something which is distinctive of their own creative innovation. A mashup is a visual remix, commonly a video or website which remixes and combines content from a number of different sources to produce something new and creative. The rights of the copyright owner by their very nature challenge the remix culture to take copyright material without permission. Therefore, mashups and remix will inevitably encounter legal problems when the whole or a substantial part of the original material has been reproduced and copied. Mashups and remixes will have to be interpreted on a case by case basis to determine whether any infringement of copyright has occurred based on what whole or a substantial part means and how it has affected the copyright owner under “Fair Use