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Using Copyrighted Materials

How do I know if the work I want to use is copyrighted? 

Most published work contains information regarding its copyright protection, including dates of first publication and U.S. Copyright registration.

Here is a useful timeline to help you consider whether a work is protected by copyright. These guidelines were established by the Copyright Act of 1976

When was the work created?

Before 1923: Works are considered part of the public domain and not protected by copyright

Between 1923 and 1963: If the copyright was renewed with the U.S. Copyright Office, the work is protected for 95 years from the first date of publication. Works that did not have their copyrights renewed are now in the public domain.

Between 1964 and 1977: Works are protected for 95 years after the first date of publication. If the work was never published it is now in public domain.

Between 1978 and today: Works are protected for 70 years after the creator’s death or 95 years after the date of creation if corporately produced, regardless of publication status.

How do I know if I am allowed to use this work?

Copyright holders are granted exclusive rights to distribute (especially for profit), adapt, display and reproduce their works. Anyone who is not granted these rights by law is required to receive permission from a copyright holder to receive these rights as well.

There are, however, limited exceptions to copyright law that allow use of protected work without permission from the copyright holder. Fair use grants the use of protected works for purposes such as parody, criticism, research, news reporting and teaching. To find out if the intended use of protected material is allowed under fair use, see the Fair Use section.

Material that belongs to the public domain is always free to use.

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