Copyright, Plagiarism, and Fair Use

What are Copy Rights?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “copyright” is “the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (such as a literary, musical, or artistic work).” That means when someone else’s work is reproduced, performed, distributed, publicly displayed, or made into a similar work without permission, then copyright infringement has occurred, and that person’s legal rights have been violated. An unregistered copyright occurs when copyright protection begins at the physical expression of an original work. The symbol “©” refers to this type of copyright. A registered copyright gives the owner sole control over the work, and does not run out until 70 years after the owner’s death. The registered copyright could be passed down or sold, however. The symbol “®” refers to this type of copyright. If something is considered “public domain,” then it is not copyright protected, and anyone is allowed to freely copy or use it. These videos sum up these concepts, give a recent example, and discuss consequences that could occur if infringement happens:


What is plaigarism?    

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “plagiarizing” is “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own, to use (another's production) without crediting the source, or to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.” Therefore, “plagiarism” would occur when and if someone commits any of these actions. Although plagiarism could be also copyright infringement, it is important to understand that even if something is public domain (and therefore not copyright protected), that passing it off as your own and not crediting the source would still be plagiarism. The following links are few great online resources that help with citing sources and avoiding plagiarism:



What is fair use?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “Fair Use” is a legal doctrine that portions of copyrighted materials may be used without permission of the copyright owner provided the use is fair and reasonable, does not substantially impair the value of the materials, and does not curtail the profits reasonably expected by the owner. According to the Stanford University website, to determine if something is fair use judges in court will analyze these aspects: the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount of substantiality of the portion taken, and the effect of the use upon the potential market. The following video gives a “crash course” on copyright, exceptions, and fair use.

Remember, its an obligation, not an option!

This video will give you more information on how to avoid running into trouble with any of these topics while using online resources, Copyright, Exceptions, and Fair Use: Crash Course Intellectual Property #3.




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Stanford University Libraries. (n.d.) Measuring Fair Use: The Four Factors. Retrieved July 11, 2017 from

Crash Course Intellectual Property. Copyright, Exceptions, and Fair Use: Crash Course

 Intellectual Property #3. (Video File). Retrieved from

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