Copyright and Fair Use

The USF library has a rundown about copyright and fair use. I highly encourage you to check out the library’s Open Use Media Resources Handout. This handout covers some copyright basics and lists websites for obtaining open use media resources for use in your projects.

How can you use copyrighted work?

  • You can link to the material.  Linking to an image or public website is not copying.  While you should still cite and give attribution to the owner of the website, it is not usually required to request permission to link to a publicly available website.
  • You can request permission from the copyright owner.
  • Requesting Permissions: Information on requesting permission to use copyrighted material including a request template.
  • You can use the work in accordance with an existing license.  For instance:
    • The library negotiates licenses to online content that allows for classroom and reserves use.
    • The work may be issued under a creative commons license where the creator has clearly established what others can do with his work.

What can you use without getting in trouble?

What is the Public Domain?

The Public Domain is a state of belonging to the public as a whole and not being protected by copyright law.  Works in the public domain are those for which copyright protection has expired, been forfeited or were inapplicable.  They can be copied, distributed, performed and displayed without seeking permissions or applying to an exception under copyright law.

How and When to Attribute Creative Commons Content


Click here for best practices when attributing Creative Commons content.

For more information on fair use check out AdWeek’s Complete Guide To Fair Use & YouTube.

Using someone’s images without their permission could affect them more than you realize. Check out a blog from a photographer called “What Happens When a Supermodel Violates Your Copyright.”

Free music you can use in your YouTube videos, even videos you monetize

YouTube provides a free music library that you can use in your videos. Check out the library here and watch this quick tutorial:

Fair use on YouTube

YouTube provides lots of resources to help you understand what you can use. This is from YouTube’s Fair Use page. 

Fair use is a legal doctrine that says you can reuse copyright-protected material under certain circumstances without getting permission from the copyright owner. Check out the videos below for helpful examples of fair use.

What happens if you post copyright material on YouTube?

YouTube created this video on their copyright page:

Depending on where you post or broadcast your work, copyright infringement is treated differently. If your TV station subscribes to services like ASCAP you can pay to use copyrighted music. But if that contract only allows for you to broadcast the music, then YouTube may flag the song if you try to post it.

When YouTube finds copyright material in your video they may allow you to keep the post up, but perhaps the owner of that song may put ads on your video for example.

Here is an example of a video I posted that includes a song owned by J. Records. They are allowing me to keep the video up because they want to put ads on my video. That works fine for me because I’m not trying to monetize this video.

copyright pic.PNG

Other owners may decide to tell YouTube to remove the video from YouTube. You can file a dispute if you feel you are following copyright policies. If you file fraudulent disputes YouTube may terminate your account. So always make sure to back up your videos on an external hard drive or your computer.

Additional Resources

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video

Published by JeanetteAbrahamsen

I am an instructional designer and TV news instructor at the University of South Florida. My passion for innovating learning led me to pursue my PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Instructional Technology. I love creating media to enhance eLearning and foster online engagement. I teach students to create multimedia stories for broadcast, web and social media platforms. I lead the Florida Focus class where students produce daily news shows that air on Tampa's PBS station. My reporting classes collaborated with Tampa's NPR station to produce award-winning stories. I am an Emmy Award-winning journalist. I produced thousands of hours of TV news in some of America's largest media markets at Tampa's NBC station, San Diego's ABC station and the San Diego Union-Tribune. I also produced immersive 360-degree virtual tours at the University of South Florida and reported for Hashtag Our Stories.

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