My head is spinning.  I never knew there were so many terms and ideas associated with the concept of copyright.  It’s a huge issue that is only growing larger.  Because of immediate access to information through the internet, copying others has become second nature to some.  Our job as educators is to inform the digital students of tomorrow on how to use the copious amounts of information in a legal way.  To do that, we have to understand the different terms associated with copyright.

  • Copyright – protection of a person’s original work.  A work can be “literary, musical, dramatic, pictorial, graphic, audiovisual, etc.” (Copyright Basics, 2012).
  • Plagiarism – the act of taking someone’s work for your own.
  • Copyright Infringement – happens when copyrighted work is copied, published, or displayed without permission from the copyright owner.
  • Public Domain – the “place” copyrighted material ends up after the copyright has expired.  As of right now, copyrighted works enter the public domain 70 years after the death of the author, 95 years after publication if produced by a corporation, or 120 years from creation.  We will not see any copyrighted works enter the public domain in our lifetime.  Works entering the public domain this year were created around 1921!  Anything created by the federal government automatically qualifies as a public domain work.
  • Fair Use – this concept allows copyrighted work to be used without the permission of the copyright holder.  There are 4 factors to consider when determining fair use – purpose, nature, market value, and amount.  Most educators claim fair use when using copyrighted materials without permission.
  • Creative Commons – a free way to license and share your work.  Many different websites work alongside Creative Commons to provide shareable works – YouTube, Wikipedia, Flickr, and many more.  You can find more information about Creative Commons here.

In conclusion, if you are as confused as I was in the beginning, and may still possibly be, the answer to copyright can be summed up in two words – JUST ASK.  When you are unsure about whether a work is in public domain, qualifies as fair use, or is copyrighted, ask the owner of the copyright.



Copyright Basics. (2012, May). Retrieved July 31, 2016, from

What we do – Creative Commons. (n.d.). Retrieved July 31, 2016, from



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