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An assortment of cameras and microphones from the Gelardin New Media Center

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Copyright & Multimedia: What Can I Use?

Materials in the Public Domain

Works that are in the public domain are no longer, or never were, protected by copyright law. For example, anything created by the federal government is public domain—everybody owns it! Also, any work published before 1926, is no longer protected by copyright and may be used freely. Some things, like data and facts, are simply not protected by copyright law. Public domain works are a great choice for your multimedia project, since you are free to use them in any way you wish. Read more about the public domain.

Materials with a Usable Creative Commons License

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization created to facilitate sharing content by creating an organized system of permissions. When creators mark their works with Creative Commons symbols, they provide ready-made licenses that tell other people exactly how the work can and cannot be used. Some creators may allow you to use their images/music/video for non-profit use, but not for commercial projects. One requirement that applies to all Creative Commons licenses is that you must include an attribution to the creator of the original work in project. Read more about Creative Commons.

Materials with Permission from the Copyright Holder

Direct, written permission from the copyright holder is the ultimate safe bet. However, this can be difficult, time-consuming, or impossible to obtain, so it is wise to consider your other options, including fair use, first. Read more about requesting permission.

Fair Use

Under the fair use doctrine, you may use limited portions of copyrighted material in your work without the permission of the copyright owner. Before using media under the fair use doctrine, however, you will need to evaluate whether your use qualifies as fair. Read more on our Can I Claim Fair Use page.  

Introduction / What Can I Use? / Can I Claim Fair Use?
Video / Audio / Images