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Copyright and Fair Use

Creative Commons

Creative Commons (CC) is a premade license that creators can attach to their copyrighted works to indicate that they have waived certain rights. This allows anyone to reuse their copyrighted work without asking for permission, so long as they follow the conditions of the license.

Not all Creative Commons licenses are the same. Creators choose the conditions they wish to apply to their license. Only if the user wishes to go beyond these terms must they seek permission.

Conditions that can be attached to Creative Commons licenses include:

Attribution (by)

All CC licenses require that others who use your work in any way must give you credit the way you request, but not in a way that suggests you endorse them or their use.

Share Alike (sa)

You let others copy, distribute, display, perform, and modify your work, as long as they distribute any modified work on the same terms.

Non Commercial (nc)

You let others copy, distribute, display, perform, and (unless you have chosen NoDerivatives) modify and use your work for any purpose other than commercially.

No Derivatives (nd)

You let others copy, distribute, display and perform only original copies of your work.

No Rights Reserved (CC0)

You waive all of your copyright and related rights in your works to the fullest extent allowed by law.


Creative Commons Licenses


Public Domain


The Public Domain refers to works that do not have copyright protection and are free for the public to use. Generally, this is because the term of protection has expired.

All works published before 1925 are in the public domain.


The following works are also in the public domain due to laws at the time of their publication:

•Works published 1923 - 1977 with no copyright notice
•Works published 1923 - 1963 with no copyright renewal
•Works published 1978 - 1989 with no copyright renewal

Open Access

Open Access refers to materials (usually digital) that are made freely available. It includes most of what you can legally find online without a paywall.

In academia, Open Access usually refers to scholarly articles, textbooks, and eBooks that do not require payment or subscription to read their full text.  This is different from materials in our databases, which the library pays for. Often, the author of an Open Access work is the one who pays the publishing fees.

Open Access works are still protected by copyright! Just because something is freely available to see or read, does not mean it is free to use in your own work.