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WR265 Mach

Research guide for Sue Mach's most excellent WR-265 Digital Storytelling class.

What is copyright and fair use?

The Battle for CopyrightThe United States Copyright Office defines traditional copyright as "a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of 'original works of authorship,' including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works." Basically, the creator/author/owner of something has the exclusive rights to display, share, and make copies of his or her work. You do NOT have that right. Break the law? Get fined.

But good news! Copyright law allows exceptions for students and educators through fair use. The fair use clause of copyright permits students to make and distribute copies of traditionally copyrighted materials without seeking permission from the copyright holder (i.e., author) in certain situations related to education, scholarship, and research. As a student at Clackamas Community College, your use of copyright material likely fits under fair use depending on how you are using the material. Learn more by reading the Fair Use Checklist.

Image: Dombres, Christopher. "The Battle of Copyright." Flickr, 2011,


Fair Use Checklist

Unfortunately there is no magic formula for determining if you can use copyrighted material without getting permission from the copyright holder. So, how do you know what's okay to do? Run your intended use through our Fair Use Checklist!

The purpose of the Fair Use Checklist is to guide, and document, a good faith effort to determine if your use of another’s work fits under fair use. Retain a copy of the completed checklist should a dispute arise. 

As you complete the checklist, consider the following:

  • relative importance of the four fair use factors (i.e., purpose, nature, amount, and market value)
  • degree to which the author’s rights may be violated by your use

Then, as a whole, make a decision for or against fair use of the material.

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