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Copyright and Fair Use

Copyright and fair use are very complicated issues with more areas of grey than black & white. This library guide will help answer some basic questions you may have about working with copyrighted print and electronic materials.

Creative Commons FAQ

What is a Creative Commons license?

Creative Commons is a type of license that creators of any type of copyrighted materials--print, web, media, etc.--can attach to a work to allow the public to share and use the material within certain defined parameters.

How is Creative Commons different from fair use?

Fair use allows the broadcast or reproduction of limited portions of copyrighted materials for educational purposes--provided fair use guidelines are respected, no express permission is granted by the content creator. Creative commons licenses, meanwhile, are issued by the creator of the content and allow the general public to use and reproduce material, per terms defined by the creator. As explained on the website, Creative Commons licenses "are not an alternative to copyright. They wand enable you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs."

What am I allowed to do with Creative Commons works?

That depends on the Creative Commons license the creator has decided on. There are six different levels of licenses, ranging from full release of a work to the public domain to allowing only verbatim copies of a work to be reproduced, performed, or reenacted. See for a description of the types of licensing available.

How do I know if a work has a Creative Commons license?

Creative Commons works will have a Creative Commons symbol attached to it. 

Creative Commons symbol

Additionally, each of the six types of Creative Commons licenses have icons which are appended to the Creative Commons symbol.

Do I have to cite my sources if they have Creative Commons licenses?

Yes, in most cases you must cite Creative Commons materials when using it for anything other than personal use. Remember, Creative Commons works in tandem with copyright and does not replace it. Read more on citing Creative Commons works