Copyright Law, Creative Commons, Fair Use and Creative Commons

I want to use a the Beatles Song in my school assembly from my iPod. Is it OK or not OK?

I'm a book publisher and want to use a screen shot from a software program on the cover of a periodical. Is it OK? When is it not OK?

I'm making a killer PPT presentation for my geography class, and want to use a map from Google Earth on the second page. Is it OK?

I'm 10 years old and I made a picture of a horse with a heart on it, and a big card company saw it in an art show, and put my picture a T-Shirt that it sells for $15 each. Should I get some of the money?

I created a set of lesson plans and put them on my web site. A few weeks ago, I picked up a book at an educational conference, and BAM -- there are my lessons, being sold and published by an author I've never heard of. I'm livid about it. Can I sue the author? Or should I sue the author's publisher? Or am I out of luck?

I'd like to use a handout on copyright law that I picked up at an education conference for my own professional inservice company. Is it OK?

I want to put some pictures of my students on my classroom website. Is it OK?

I need a picture of a lightning bolt for a presentation. I went to Google images, cut and pasted the image into my presentation. It was easy and it looked great. But is it OK?

Can I freely use Beethoven in my movie, since he's long gone and probably won't be bothering me?


The concept of "creative commons" as well as copyright law, applied to online settings, must be at the beginning of any conversation about creating or publishing web-based content. When is it OK to cut and paste?

Start by have a look at the US Government's basic facts about copyright law.

Next, read and understand the thinking behind open source.

History of Creative Commons
Creative Commons defines the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright — all rights reserved — and the public domain — no rights reserved. From the website comes the following copy:

"Our licenses help you keep your copyright while inviting certain uses of your work — a “some rights reserved” copyright.
Creative Commons was founded in 2001. Fellows and students at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School and Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society helped get the project off the ground. Creative Commons is now housed at offices in San Francisco. The Board oversees a small administrative staff and technical team, and is advised by a Technical Advisory Board. Creative Commons is paid for by supporters.

Some videos for discussion (thanks to James Reineke showing me the Sue Teller video).

Some other views:

Start by visiting the site, and reading about creative commons, here.
Next, choose the appropriate license for your blog.

History of Creative Commons, from

“Some Rights Reserved”: Building a Layer of Reasonable Copyright
Too often the debate over creative control tends to the extremes. At one pole is a vision of total control — a world in which every last use of a work is regulated and in which “all rights reserved” (and then some) is the norm. At the other end is a vision of anarchy — a world in which creators enjoy a wide range of freedom but are left vulnerable to exploitation. Balance, compromise, and moderation — once the driving forces of a copyright system that valued innovation and protection equally — have become endangered species.
Creative Commons is working to revive them. We use private rights to create public goods: creative works set free for certain uses. Like the free software and open-source movements, our ends are cooperative and community-minded, but our means are voluntary and libertarian. We work to offer creators a best-of-both-worlds way to protect their works while encouraging certain uses of them — to declare “some rights reserved.”
Thus, a single goal unites Creative Commons’ current and future projects: to build a layer of reasonable, flexible copyright in the face of increasingly restrictive default rules.
Creative Commons’ first project, in December 2002, was the release of a set of copyright licenses free for public use. Taking inspiration in part from the Free Software Foundation’s GNU General Public License (GNU GPL), Creative Commons has developed a Web application that helps people dedicate their creative works to the public domain — or retain their copyright while licensing them as free for certain uses, on certain conditions. Unlike the GNU GPL, Creative Commons licenses are not designed for software, but rather for other kinds of creative works: websites, scholarship, music, film, photography, literature, courseware, etc. We hope to build upon and complement the work of others who have created public licenses for a variety of creative works. Our aim is not only to increase the sum of raw source material online, but also to make access to that material cheaper and easier. To this end, we have also developed metadata that can be used to associate creative works with their public domain or license status in a machine-readable way. We hope this will enable people to use our search application and other online applications to find, for example, photographs that are free to use provided that the original photographer is credited, or songs that may be copied, distributed, or sampled with no restrictions whatsoever. We hope that the ease of use fostered by machine- readable licenses will further reduce barriers to creativity.

Who is Laurence Lessig?
What is a "mashup?"