Copyright & Multimedia: Introduction

Copyright is very important to consider as you create multimedia projects at Georgetown University. There are times when you will want to use someone else's work to enhance your project: artwork, photographs, graphics, audio recordings, music, film, and video. Should you just grab whatever you want off the Internet? While It is very easy to download all types of media, it is irresponsible to take whatever you want without evaluating its copyright status. Moreover, if you infringe on someone else's copyright, you could be liable for damages.

Under U.S. Copyright law, people who create new works have the right to determine how their works may be used. Fortunately, under certain circumstances, there are exceptions to the law that allow you to use copyrighted works without explicit permission from the rights holder. 

Copyright Basics

Copyright law can be intimidating, confusing, and difficult to follow, but it is very important to make sure that your use of third-party works is legal. Here are a few principles to keep in mind as you choose materials for your multimedia project.

  • Copyright is automatic.
    Many different types of works are protected by copyright, including photographs, poetry, videos, software code, video games, choreography, sheet music, recorded music, and more. Generally, once a work is put into a fixed format, the owner has exclusive rights to that work, including reproducing, distributing, displaying, performing, and creating derivative works.
  • The © is not required for a work to be copyrighted.
    Don’t see a ©? The work is probably still copyrighted. Copyright does not require registration, publication, or use of the © symbol.
  • Attribution is not a substitute for permission.
    Giving credit to a creator does not entitle you to use that work. For copyright clearance, you must have an exception to copyright law or permission from the copyright owner. Proper attribution of your sources is critical for academic integrity and is almost always required by license or permission agreement; it is not, however, a substitute for
  • Publicly available does not mean public domain.
    Public domain materials are free for anyone to use but are a small percentage of the materials available online. The fact that you can easily find and view a work online does not mean that you have a right to use it.

What You Can Use When You Create Multimedia Projects

  • your own original work
  • works that are in the public domain
  • works that are appropriately licensed for your use
  • works for which you have permission from the copyright owner

Introduction  / What Can I Use? /  Can I Claim Fair Use?
Video  /  Audio  /  Images