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Home: Copyright and Fair Use

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Copyright Definition

Copyright is a protection of “intellectual property” granted by the U.S. Constitution. It applies as soon as an expression is in a physical form such as written work (print or online), art, musical scores, song lyrics, poems, software, etc. You don't need to register with the Copyright Office for this protection.

The Case of Pepe the Frog

Matt Furie created Pepe the Frog in the early 2000s.  He was featured as a "peaceful frog dude" in the comic Boy's Club.  Right  before the election of 2016, Pepe appeared on 4Chan, redesigned as a racist, neo-nazi.  Memes were created and spread throughout the internet.  Pepe was even labeled a "hate symbol."  Does the author have a right to protect his creation?   
According to Neal Daugherty, a lecturer for the School of Design and Creative Technologies, “When it harms the artist and takes money out of their pocket, that’s when it’s a problem” (Daugherty).


Fair Use Doctrine

Fair Use* is a limited right for you to legally use a copyrighted work, without permission from the author or artist. It helps protect students and teachers from copyright lawsuits. On a case-by-case basis, courts weigh these factors:

1. The Purpose & Character of the Use of Copyrighted Work:

  • TRANSFORMATIVE QUALITY - You used the original work & changed it into something new and different.

  • COMMERCIAL OR NONCOMMERCIAL - You didn't collect money and it's considered educational, nonprofit, or personal.

2. The Nature of the Copyrighted Work - Factual data is more likely considered Fair Use.

3. The Amount of the Portion Used in Relation to the Whole - Sections of a work are more likely to be considered Fair Use.

4. The Effect upon the Potentional Market or Value of the Copyrighted Work - If you are having a substantial negative impact on the ability for the copyright owner to make money, you should rethink your usage.

*(Section 107 of the Copyright Act) 
(rewrited from the Electronic Frontier Foundation)

For scholastic integrity, be sure to always give credit to the creator of any work you use.

Examples of Fair Use


• You use a popular song & change the lyrics for an assignment.
• You download a video clip from YouTube for a presentation.
• You photocopy a poem and hand it out to 25 students.
• You use a song as background music for a film for class.
• You copied a photo from the Internet for a brochure or presentation. 

Citing Images

Photographer, P. (Year of publication). Title of photograph [Photograph]. Source. URL          

O’Shea, P. (2010, August 29). Rescued hedgehog. [Photograph]. Flickr


If the photographer is not listed, the citation would read as thus:

Rescued hedgehog [Photograph]. (2010, August 29).

If the date was also not listed, the citation would read as thus:

Rescued hedgehog [Photograph]. (n.d.).

If there is no title for the photograph, describe in brackets. The citation would read as thus:

[Rescued hedgehog] [Photograph]. (n.d.).

If it's not a photograph, then describe exactly what type of image it is: digital image, cartoon, painting, drawing, etc.