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Copyright and Plagiarism Guide for Students: Fair Use, Public Domain & Plagiarism

A guide to give students an overview of copyright law, fair use, plagiarism, and the importance of attribution (citation).

CITATION HELP, FAST!

The Internet

The internet image

Just because it's visible on the Internet, does NOT mean it's free for anyone to use in any way.

Plagiarism

Plagiarism includes:
  • copying text without giving proper credit to the original author or source
  • copying information from Internet sites and passing it off as your own
  • using someone else's paper or project and turning it in as your own

 Avoiding plagiarism:

  • take citation notes on EVERY source (title, author, publisher, publication date, url, date accessed)
  • place quotation marks around directly quoted text and include author's name and title of publication
  • paraphrase correctly
  • ALWAYS cite your sources

 Test your plagiarism knowledge:

You Quote It, You Note It!
You Quote It, You Note It!
Courtesy of: Vaughan Memorial Library, Acadia University
Copyright © 2004-2008 The Governors of Acadia University.
All rights reserved.Requirements for Use
 
 

Public Domain

Public Domain: Works in the public domain are not protected by copyright and can be used freely. Examples of works in public domain:

  • All works published in the US before 1923
  • Works by the US Government or created by its employees as part of their job

Note: It is common practice in academia to give credit, even when using material in the public domain.

What is "Fair Use"?

The Fair Use Doctrine (in US copyright law) is the provision that allows that brief excerpts of copyrighted material may, under certain circumstances, be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.

Audio/Video & Copyright

Converting the file format of audio and video recordings is completely forbidden by copyright law at this time. In order to use any excerpts in class or classwork which do not come directly (during use) from the original purchased recording, written permission must be obtained from the copyright owner.

There is NO Fair Use exemption for this law.

The safest action is to play the DVD/CD/MP3/recording directly from the original purchased version


If you purchased a digital downloaded version, you need to play it from a legal source, such as the device you downloaded it to (your laptop or tablet) or a CD legally burned from it, or a flash (thumb) drive copy legally made. 


If you need something from the web, link to it (or embed a player, if that's an option) rather than download it and convert the format for your own use.

YouTube

YouTube (and other web videos)

YouTube videos (and many other videos on the web) are restricted by user agreements which must be consulted and observed.

YouTube and copyright law specifically FORBID converting videos for use in PowerPoint or other class use, whether by faculty or students.
See the YouTube Terms for details, including the specific agreement for everyone using YouTube:

"You agree not to access User Submissions (defined below) or YouTube Content through any technology or means other than the video playback pages of the Website itself, the YouTube Embeddable Player, or other explicitly authorized means YouTube may designate."

Videos may only be linked, not converted, for use by faculty or students.

Using any method to change the file format of copyrighted digital material is forbidden by copyright law and there is NO Fair Use exemption.

Should I Use This Photograph?

You just found THE perfect picture for your presentation. Should you use it? 
Follow your path through this infographic and discover the answer!

Make GOOGLE Do Some of the Work

Finding Content With Google

Google allows you to filter your search results to only show Creative Commons and public domain works. When doing an advanced search, you can choose which usage rights you want Google to search for. For example, if you're searching for an image to use in your blog, you can change the usage rights to free to use or share.

Use the Advanced Search in the upper left corner of the search results page, and filter your results.

Advanced search screen shot    THEN    Advances search filter screen shot

Final Note About FAIR USE

The law allows you to do many things as a student, under "Fair Use", which are NOT legal once you are outside class.  Much of the "free" material you can use for class work is NOT necessarily licensed for you to use commercially (in your job). 

Be sure to doublecheck anything you use outside the classroom for copyright, so you -- and your boss -- don't violate copyright.

Just because it's visible on the Internet, does NOT mean it's free for anyone to use in any way.

Citing Your Sources

Help is out there!

  • SSC Writing Center