Please note that this guide is not a legal document. It is offered as an educational tool to provide resources to help locate materials in the public domain or under Creative Commons licensing. Students working on multimedia projects are encouraged to use copyright-free materials or to apply Fair Use principles to copyrighted materials.
Copyright is a legal protection granted to creators of original works. According to section 106 of the United States copyright law, copyright owners have the exclusive rights to do and authorize the following:
U.S. Copyright Law states that to be protected by copyright, works must be original, and fixed in any tangible medium of expression.
The following types of works are covered by copyright in the U.S.:
If a work is in the public domain, it is not protected by copyright and may be used and adapted without restriction.
The public domain includes all works that never had copyright protection, as well as works that no longer have copyright protection. Works published in the United States prior to 1923 are in the public domain, as well as most works created by the United States government.
the purpose and character of the use
the nature of the copyrighted work
the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
the effect of the use upon the potential market for the copyrighted work
Creative Commons Website. A Creative Commons license is a special form of copyright license that is used by creators to indicate that the public may use, share, and sometimes even build upon their work. For more information, see
Search Creative Commons
There are several kinds of CC Licenses, some of which are more restrictive than others. Because of this, it is important to review the terms of the license for anything that you want to use. Keep in mind that if you plan to alter a CC licensed work in any way (for instance, modify a photo in Photoshop, edit a video, etc.) the license must be one that allows you to make derivatives. You can find more information about the various CC Licenses here.
Check rights first! Start your image search with resources that have few or no copyright restrictions, such as those in the public domain or those with Creative Commons licenses.
Always check rights carefully! Note that some images with Creative Commons licenses are derived from sources that are protected by copyright.
Disclaimer: This guide covers basic issues of copyright for Bucknell students who may need to use copyrighted information in their course work. It is not intended as legal advice. More information is available on the Bucknell Copyright Information site.
The Congress shall have Power … To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Tımes to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
-United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 8