Skip to Main Content

Sullivan Library at WDMS: Copyright, Fair Use, & Creative Commons


Copyright, Fair Use, & Creative Commons


Copyright Law in a Nutshell

When an original work or invention is created (like a photo, a work of art, a musical recording, a book) it automatically becomes protected by copyright law. That means the creator of the original work or invention is the only one who owns the rights to reproduce and profit from their work. Everyone else must pay them to use their image, song, etc.

Fair Use: The Exemption

Teachers and students are allowed to use small portions of someone else's original work for free as long as they are using it for educational purposes and as long as they give credit where credit is due. This is called Fair Use.

Why Should Students Care?

  1. It's the right thing to do as a digital citizen
  2. Responsible use of technology is part of the 2016 Massachusetts Digital Literacy and Computer Science Curriculum Framework (6-8.CAS.b.1 and 6-8.CAS.b.3)
  3. It's the right thing to do
  4. It's the right thing to do

Become Better Informed

This resource provides students with basic information about Fair Use and Creative Commons Licensing. Look at the videos and browse the information on this page. The best thing to remember is: give credit where credit is due!

Questions? Ask Ms. Tanguay

What is Creative Commons Licensing?

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that provides access to flexibly-licensed copyrighted materials (images, music, videos, etc.).

What does that mean?

Artists, photographers, musicians, etc., license their copyrighted materials to allow others to use them for free as long as proper credit is given to the work's creator.

How does it work?

Use the button below to search for images, music, video, etc., which are licensed to be used freely, as long as you provide proper credit in your project.



Guidelines for Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials:


• Students and teachers may use copyrighted material in multimedia presentations if they observe quantity limits

• Students and teachers must acknowledge all copyrighted work with a bibliography or mediagraphy


• Scanning or uploading complete or long portions of songs, clips, or text

• Storing projects on open Web sites (those without any password protection)



  • up to 5 images from one artist/illustrator/photographer
  • 15 images or 10% (whichever is less) from a source with images from many artists/illustrators/photographers


  • up to 30 seconds or 10% (whichever is less) of a musical work
  • may be combined from different sections of work
  • includes music and lyrics
  • includes music video
  • there is no limit on looping
  • you may not change the basic melody or basic character


  • up to 3 minutes or 10% (whichever is less) of a video


  • up to 1,000 words or 10% (whichever is less) of text from one source
  • a poem up to 250 words
  • no more than 3 poems by one poet
  • no more than 5 poems from a single collection





Useful Terms to Know:

  • Attribution: giving credit where credit is due (Example: when you use a photo from the internet for a project and you include the photographer's name beside the photo, you are providing attribution by giving the photographer credit for their work).
  • Copyright: legal rights held by those who create original works or inventions, like images, musical compositions, videos, etc.
  • Creative Commons License: A license granted by the creator of an original work or invention that allows others to use their work or invention.
  • Derivative Work: a work or invention adapted from one that already exists (examples include translations, musical arrangements, song sampling, a photo montage)
  • Digital Literacy: the ability to use information in a responsible and ethical manner to find, evaluate, create and communicate information.
  • Digital Content/Media: Images, music, video, text, etc., found on the Internet.
  • Fair Use: The section of copyright law that allows individuals to use small amounts of copyrighted material for educational purposes.
  • Intellectual Property: A work or invention that someone created which is protected by copyright law from misuse by another.
  • Plagiarism: Using someone else's original work or invention without permission from the one who created it. Plagiarism can occur unintentionally.


3 MUSTS for Multimedia Attribution
(Giving credit where credit is due in a slide or video presentation)

#1. Include this statement on the first slide or first clip of your presentation:

"This presentation contains copyrighted material used under the educational fair use exemption to U.S. Copyright Law. Further use is prohibited."

#2. Provide credit on the same slide/clip where an image is used (tiny font size is OK - see example below):









Image by MTanguay


#3. Include a bibliography (or a mediagraphy) on the last slide or the end credits of your presentation and include the copyright date and name of copyright holder for each item of copyrighted material used in your presentation.