Can’t I just take Google images and use them in my presentation?
All of the images you find through Google image search were created by someone—in other words, someone has the rights associated with that image. Even though you are able to download that image, it doesn’t mean that you have the right to use it. The good news is that there are many ways to use copyright materials and still follow the law! In this module, you will learn about some easy ways to find media for assignments and presentations.
If it doesn’t have a copyright symbol, it isn’t copyrighted, right?
Copyright is the area of law that deals with creation, ownership, sale, and use of creative and expressive works. Creators today don’t have to do anything to get a copyright; a work that qualifies is automatically fully protected by copyright from the moment it is first “fixed”. Publication is not a requirement for copyright protection, and even formal registration is purely optional. There is also no requirement to include a copyright notice, date, the “circled c” © symbol, or any other information on the work in order to own a copyright.
A copyright owner gets to do, or authorize others to do, the following things (U.S. Copyright Code, 17 U.S.C. § 106):
- Make copies of the work
- Distribute copies of the work (by selling, renting, lending, or giving it away)
- Perform or display the work publicly
- Make derivative works, like translations, adaptations, and reinterpretations
Is everything covered under copyright?
The copyright rights outlined above only apply to works that fit into one of these eight categories (U.S. Copyright Code, 17 U.S.C. § 102(a)):
- literary works
- musical works, including accompanying words
- dramatic works, including accompanying music
- pantomimes and choreographic works
- pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
- motion pictures and other audiovisual works
- sound recordings
- architectural works
Some of the categories are bigger than you might think. For instance, “literary works” includes almost all text-based media, including computer code.
Employers usually own the works created by employees in the course of their employment, and commissioned works (“works for hire”) are usually owned by the party that commissioned them. Someone who is not a creator may acquire ownership of a copyright through a written agreement with the creator.
For works created today, copyright protection starts automatically as soon as a work is created, and lasts for 70 years after the death of the creator. Because copyright terms have been changed several times, the term lengths for older works vary widely, based on a bewildering number of factors.
So is there anything I can use in my presentation that doesn’t have a copyright?
Copyright does not apply to (U.S. Copyright Code, 17 U.S.C. § 102(b)):
- procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation—These qualify for protection and ownership under patent law, and patent and copyright do not usually overlap.
- ideas, concepts, principles, or discoveries—Broadly speaking, these are not ownable under any form of U.S. intellectual property law. This reflects important values about intellectual freedom and encouraging innovation.
- titles, names, short phrases and slogans; familiar symbols or designs, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, mere listings of ingredients or contents—These are considered to fail the requirement of originality, but they may fall under trademark laws.
- other unoriginal or unfixed works, such as that best selling novel you haven’t written yet!
On the next page you will learn about two categories where you don’t need to ask permission of the copyright holder: (1) public domain and (2) Creative Commons.