Copyright and Your WPI Project

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Working on a presentation or a paper? Want to add some images, sound clips, or videos to liven things up? Worried about violating copyright? This guide will introduce you to the concept of copyright and will teach you how to find images, sound clips, and videos that you can use safely. Remember to always include a citation for an media you include in your presentation. Even if it's copyright-free, you still need to cite it to avoid plagiarism and to let your audience know where you found it. (See our Citing Sources Guide for more information on citing sources.) 


Have questions about copyright? Ask the WPI Copyright Team! Send your copyright questions to:

What is Copyright?

The United States Copyright Office provides the following definition for copyright:

  • "Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works."

Because copyright covers both published and unpublished works, you are already a copyright holder, even if you don't have any published works. For example, for any email that you send, a paper that you write, a photograph that you take, or a video that you create, you own the copyright.

Copyright owners control:

  • reproduction of their works
  • distribution of copies of their work 
  • making of derivative works 
  • public performance and display of their works


United States Copyright Office 

Video: Introduction to Copyright

This video provides an entertaining and informative introduction to copyright:

A Fair(y) Use Tale was created by Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License

Did You Know...

  • Since 1989, displaying a copyright notice is optional; therefore original works are copyright protected whether they display a copyright notice or not.
  • An out-of-print book means that a book is no longer being published for sale; however, even though the book is out-of-print, the copyright is still in effect. The copyright owner still holds all the rights to the work and may re-publish it in the future for royalties.
  • Simply citing a copyrighted work in your project does not substitute in any way for obtaining the permission required to use it. Unauthorized use of copyrighted materials without permission may result in legal consequences.
  • You own the copyright to my MQP, IQP, Sufficiency, Thesis, or Dissertation. Copyright to individual IQP, MQP, sufficiency, thesis, and dissertation reports and documents are owned by the author, subject to other agreements. In the case of a jointly written document, copyright is held jointly by all authors, subject to other agreements. In cases when such a document was submitted to fulfill a degree requirement, students will grant to WPI a nonexclusive royalty-free license to distribute copies of the document, subject to other agreements.