Rules of Thumb for Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials in Multimedia Production

These guidelines are meant to give the user an idea of the seriousness of copyright law.† They are not a legal protection and the user is ultimately responsible for obtaining necessary copyrights when creating a multimedia production.

The rights described here are rights to create unique works, but not to make multiple copies and distribute them.

Public Domain

A Public Domain work is one that has never been copyrighted or has had its copyright expire.† Public Domain works can be used freely.† The following are examples of works in the Public Domain.

1.      Any work published on or before December 31, 1922

2.      Unoriginal reprints of public domain works

3.      A work that lacks originality (like the phone book)

4.      Freeware (not shareware)

5.      US Government works

6.      Facts


Fair Use

Fair Use is a legal principle that defines the limitations on the exclusive rights of copyright holders.If an item does not qualify as Fair Use, you must obtain permission from the copyright holder.

To determine if an item is of fair use, consider the following factors:†

1.      What is the character of the use?

May Be Fair Use

Definitely Not Fair Use







2.   What is the nature of the work to be used?†

May Be Fair Use


Definitely Not Fair Use


A mixture of fact and imaginative







3.      How much of the work will you use?

May Be Fair Use

Definitely Not Fair Use

Small amount

More than a small amount



Just because something is being used for educational purposes does not mean it qualifies as Fair Use.

Remember:† It is better to err on the side of caution, since you could be personally sued!

Fair Use of Digitizing and Using Othersí Works in Multimedia Materials for Educational Purposes

Users may:

  1. Incorporate othersí works into a multimedia work using appropriate citations to the source and include any copyright notice to create:
      1. Using royalty-free music loops in a video presentation
      2. Inserting a graphic of the Mona Lisa portrait in a slide show
  2. Display and perform a multimedia work
  3. Donít make any unnecessary copies of the multimedia work.†


I have read and understand the above guidelines for Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials in Multimedia Production.† I realize that these guidelines are broad generalizations and do not describe the full intent of the law.†

I agree that I am personally responsible for securing any necessary permissions for copyrighted materials.†

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