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Online Learning Guide

Copyright and Fair Use Overview

Watch this YouTube video from Common Sense Education to better understand the rules of copyright and fair use.

Open Access for Students

As a student, you know how important it is to have access to the articles you need to complete a research project, and you know how frustrating it is when that article is behind a pay-wall. You’re not alone in needing timely access to research materials. Scholars need to see what others in their field have published; researchers keep abreast of the latest experiments; journalists do background research on news topics; taxpayers everywhere support research and scholarships, and should have the ability to access the results. Find out how you as a student can get involved in a movement to make research more accessible to everyone.

Copyright Infringement vs. Plagiarism

Copyright infringement is not the same thing as plagiarism, but they are related. Plagiarism generally means intentionally or unintentionally passing off someone else's work as your own. Copyright infringement is using someone else's materials without their permission, even if you give the creator credit for their work.


Using Citations

In academic writing and research, you may quote or paraphrase the work of others under the fair use principle. You do not need to get permission from the copyright holder to critique their work! However, you need to acknowledge where that work comes from.

Citations not only help you avoid plagiarism, but they acknowledge and give credit to the work of other scholars. Think about how you would feel if someone else claimed your work as their own, after all of the time and effort you put into creating something. We cite others' works to give them credit for their ideas. Citations also tell your readers where to find the information that you are quoting or paraphrasing.

Academic writing develops, highlights, or sometimes contradicts the work of other scholars. This process forms a conversation between scholars, disciplines, and even generations, and it is the basis of a rich tradition of academic discourse. When you write an academic paper you are entering this conversation, even if it doesn't feel like it!

Roosevelt Library Citation Guides

Confused about citation punctuation? Check out our pages on Writing Tools and Citation Guides.

Roosevelt Policy on Academic Honesty

You should be familiar with Roosevelt's policy on academic honesty, which covers plagiarism and other dishonest practices, and gives you tips on how to avoid them.

Copyright and Digital Media

Just like in academic writing, if you are using a copyrighted image, movie clip, or sound file for purposes of research or criticism it will probably fall under fair use. However, this does not necessarily mean that you can use copyrighted materials for posters or classroom presentations if its purpose is for entertainment or decoration.

Using Material from the Internet

Copyright laws protect works published on the Internet, even if no explicit copyright notice is posted. While fair use is still applicable, for other kinds of use (personal, entertainment, commercial) it is important to realize that just because you can download/copy/edit something posted on the Internet, doesn't mean you have permission to. For more discussion of using materials on the Internet, visit this Copyright Crash Course.

Creative Commons/Public Domain

Though much of the work posted on the Internet does not include a copyright statement, there is a growing body of digital text and media published under a Creative Commons license. Under the Creative Commons license, creators can give others the right to share, use, and build upon their work. There are six basic types of Creative Commons licenses, so make sure you check what kinds of uses the creator permits. You can also attach a Creative Commons license to works that you create so that others can use and share your work.

Where to Find Public Domain Media

If you are looking for images, movies, or sound clips to use in a presentation or elsewhere, check out our Open Access research guide.