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Defines copyright and Fair Use; find Fair Use evaluators, information on Creative Commons.

Open does NOT mean you don't have to cite!

  • You still have to give attribution to (cite) the creator or author of a work, even if that item is in the public domain or if the author made it available for use without permission. Not giving attribution would be plagiarism. 
  • An exception to this is if the author specifically states that no attribution is necessary in the Creative Commons license associated with the item. See below for more information about Creative Commons licenses.
  • For more detailed information about the differences between plagiarism and copyright, see the Copyright vs. Plagiarism page of this guide.

Public Domain

  • Look for items in the Public Domain. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but attribution is still required in most cases.
  • Make sure you know for sure the item is in the public domain before using it without permission. 
  • The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. 

There are four common ways that works arrive in the public domain:

  1. the copyright has expired
  2. the copyright owner failed to follow copyright renewal rules
  3. the copyright owner deliberately places it in the public domain, known as “dedication,” or
  4. copyright law does not protect this type of work.

Creative Commons

Look for items with a Creative Commons license. View each license for specific rules for using, sharing, and giving attribution.

Creative Commons copyright licenses and tools give creators a standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work. 

It is important to view the specific rules outlined in the specific license for each item. For example, in many cases, you may be able to use without permission, but you still have to give attribution (i.e. cite the source). 

Open Educational Resources (OER)

"OER are teachinglearning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others." The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation