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Copyright FAQ

What is the public domain?

The public domain includes all works that are no longer under copyright protection. These works may be freely used without permission from the former copyright owner. There are four common ways for a work to end up in the public domain:

  1. The copyright expires
  2. Copyright was not renewed
  3. The owner intentionally puts the work in the public domain
  4. Copyright law does not protect this type of work

How do I find out if a work is in the public domain? 

Please review the Using Copyrighted Materials page for more information on works in the public domain. Also Cornell University offers a comprehensive chart on works in the public domain on their website. 

How can I make sure my use of a work is "fair use"?

Many resources are available to determine fair use (see STLCC's Fair Use section). The American Library Association (ALA) offers a Fair Use Evaluator where you can submit a request to have your case evaluated.

Are all educational uses considered "fair use"?

NO! Although your use is for educational purposes, this is just one factor to be considered. The other factors include nature of the work's presentation, amount of work utilized, and market effect. It is best to evaluate each work using STLCC's fair use formula or an alternative site such as ALA Fair Use Evaluator.

What is peer-to-peer file sharing?

Peer-to-peer file sharing, commonly known as P2P, is where computers users share information (e.g. music files or video) without the use of a central server. File sharing programs such as Kazaa, Limewire or iMesh are where most of this file sharing takes place. However, most (but not all) P2P file sharing is an unauthorized way to download and share copyrighted material and therefore violates copyright laws.

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