Copyright in the U.S. is the right granted by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S. Code) to an author or other creator to control use of the work created. WPI provides an overview of U.S. Copyright Law. The library can assist you in discovering materials that are in the public domain and other legal ways of using works for your teaching, projects, or publications, and advise you on the use of Creative Commons licenses to enable a range of uses of the work you create.
According to the US Copyright Office "a work of authorship is in the 'public domain' if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner."
Determining whether a work is in the public domain can be challenging due to changes in copyright law. This guide from Cornell University Libraries can help you to determine if a work you are considering using is in the public domain: Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States. You can also consult the Public Domain Calculator (requires Flash).
Some materials that are not protected by copyright are:
For further information about the public domain see US Copyright Office Circular 1 Copyright Basics.
As you search for creative works to use in your projects, publications, or teaching materials, you may see Creative Commons licenses attached to these works. Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that provides free licenses that allow the owners of creative works to share their content with the public on their terms. This nonprofit organization offers a number of licenses ranging from "Some Rights Reserved" to public domain.
There are four components of Creative Commons licenses, which can be mixed and matched to create six open licenses.
CC attributions vary, therefore you must read the summary of the license to understand how to use the image, texts, videos, music etc.
To add a Creative Commons license to your work:
When a WPI community member seeks to use or distribute a copyright protected work that is not determined to be fair use, they must seek permission and document that process. Students completing projects or theses that will be made available on the web upon completion, will in many cases need to seek permission from copyright holders.
The steps to seeking permission are:
For further information about requesting permission, see WPI's Requesting Permission page.
Fair Use is a defense to an allegation of infringement under the U.S. Copyright Law that permits limited use of portions of a copyrighted work without the copyright owner's permission for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. However, this means an allegation of copyright infringement has been made.
Section 107 of the Copyright Act establishes four basic factors to be considered in deciding whether a use constitutes fair use. No one factor alone determines a person's right to use a copyrighted work without permission.
For more information about Fair Use, see WPI's Overview of Fair Use.
The flow charts provided in the Faculty and Student sections of this guide may help you determine if Fair Use may apply to your proposed use of copyrighted materials. Please be aware that the Fair Use Doctrine only applies after legal proceedings have commenced. It is not a preventative measure, instead, it is defense after a claim of copyright infringement has been alleged.