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Copyright Decision Tree

Can I use ...

You're probably going to want to use copyrighted works at some point. Whether you're preparing a class lecture, developing a presentation, or creating a flyer for an event, you're rarely going to want to make all of the content yourself. Copyright exists to encourage the develop of new works, but it can be complex and intimidating. This guide is designed to walk you through a decision tree model to determine when and where you can use works without violating copyright. You will find lots of information here, but it is not and should not be used as legal advice.

The Copyright Decision Tree

Determining Status



Seeking Permission

A decision tree is a tool that helps us work through possible outcomes. For this copyright decision tree, we’ll start by determining the status of a work. If it is not eligible for copyright protections or in the public domain, we may use it. If not, we move on to considering licenses that give us certain permissions. These can come from the library or from the creators through licenses such as Creative Commons. If those are not available, we can consider exemptions to copyright law such as classroom use and fair use. Finally, we can always seek permission from the copyright holder.