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Streaming and Digital Media: Copyright


Some important things to know about copyright:

  • Copyright covers not just text (books), but also photographs, designs, drawings, sculpture, film, musical scores, choreography, computer software, architecture, and much more.
  • As soon as a work is created, it is automatically protected by copyright.  The presence of a copyright notice (©) is not a requirement.
  • Under U.S. copyright laws, only the copyright holder has the authority to reproduce (copy, download, or scan) or distribute (forward or share) the work.  Any other person who wishes to reproduce or distribute the work must seek written permission from the copyright holder. 
  • Works that are under copyright and have no Creative Commons license are typically not appropriate for inclusion in an online student project.

What is the Public Domain?

Items that are without copyright are considered "in the public domain."  These materials are free to use, reproduce, distribute, or change, without permissions.  There are several ways in which an item may enter the public domain:

  • Copyright does expire (expiration times vary).  Items in the public domain are often older, historical materials that were once covered by a copyright.  
  • Works created by the government are automatically placed in the public domain.  
  • An author (copyright holder) may elect to place the work into the public domain. 

Where Can I Find the Copyright?

It is often difficult to locate a copyright or creative commons license notice, especially when searching for digital media.  Look carefully around the edges of the item.  

A copyright notice may appear as an image or logo.  For example:

   (Under Copyright)

   (Under copyright with Creative Commons permissions)

  or   or  (Within the Public Domain)


A copyright notice may also appear not as an image or logo, but as text.  For example:

"All Rights Reserved"


"Public Domain Work"


A copyright notice may be hidden under a separate page, tab, or header within a website.  Look around carefully for the following phrases, and click on them when possible:

"Rights Statement"


"Access Restrictions"


Remember, if you cannot find any information about the copyright status, you must assume that the work is protected under copyright laws, with all rights reserved.

What is the Creative Commons?

Creative Commons (CC) is a nonprofit that has created unique licenses that allow authors to grant certain permissions to the public. CC licenses are legally binding and indicate exactly how the work can be used. If a work is displayed with a CC license, you are able to use it legally in ways that a traditional U.S. copyright license (©) would not allow.

Creative Commons Licenses

 CC-BY (Attribution) You may distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon the work, even commercially, as long as you credit the original creator.


CC-BY-SA (Attribution-ShareAlike)  You may remix, tweak, and build upon the work, even for commercial purposes, as long as you credit the original creator and license your new creation under an identical license.


CC-BY-ND (Attribution-NoDerivs)  You may redistribute, commercially or non-commercially, as long as the work is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to the original creator. You cannot change the work in any way.


CC-BY-NC (Attribution-NonCommercial)  You may remix, tweak, and build upon the work, as long as you credit the original creator and use the creation for non-commercial purposes.


CC-BY-NC-SA (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike)  You may remix, tweak, and build upon the work non-commercially, as long as you credit the original creator and license your new creation under an identical license.


CC-BY-NC-ND (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs)  You may share the work with others, but you cannot change it in any way or use it commercially. You must credit the original creator.