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Copyright Law

Copyright is a legal marker of intellectual property designed to protect a creator’s financial and/or intellectual wealth. Ideas, facts, systems, and methods of operation are not covered. However, a creative representation of an idea or fact, like a video, a blog post, or an Internet meme, are copyright-protected. You don't have to apply for copyright; it's automatically granted. If you have questions about your intellectual property while affiliated with CMU, this copyright page on intellectual property can assist. 

To model respect for intellectual property for your learners and colleagues, and to help the University avoid copyright violations and associated fees, it is essential to:

  • always cite sources, even for digital assets like images or music, 
  • secure/purchase use rights as necessary (CMU Libraries' Course Reserves staff can assist) 
  • adhere to Fair Use guidelines (CMU's Copyright page can assist), and 
  • consider public domain or open materials, like Creative Commons works and open educational resources (OER). 

What is Fair Use? A copyright doctrine allowing use of copyrighted works without permission in education, research, and other fields if the use is respectful of four criteria: 

  • Purpose and Character – Your use is transformative, value-added, and/or non-profit. 
  • Nature – The work is factual and/or published. 
  • Amount and Substantiality – Your use is reasonable and limited. 
  • Market Impact – Your use is respectful to the copyright holder's future potential profits. 

Additional resources

To learn more about copyright and related concepts or to find materials you can use in your teaching, check out these links: 


Much of the work above was adapted from the following document, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License:  Wicks, J. M. (2017). Jessica’s Quick & Dirty Guide for Using Copyrighted Media in Class.