Policies: Copyright


Due to the media-related nature of student work in the school, the application of copyright laws often extends beyond the guidelines for plagiarism established in a standard classroom environment. Instructors must ensure that the information students are posting on The Media School’s websites is accurate and has been collected in an ethical way (no plagiarism, fabrications or copyright violations of music, charts or other “right-click-and-save” material). 

Instructors: If you have any doubts or concerns, leave the student’s project in draft or private mode until he or she makes corrections or changes. Some instructors post student material only after several editing cycles and fact-checks. If students don’t comply with requests for changes or clarification, they cannot expect to have their work on public view.  

The basics

The U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 grants owners of works protected by copyright a number of exclusive, but limited and specific, rights in their intellectual property. These rights include producing and distributing copies; making derivative works based on a copyrighted work; and the public performance and display of works.

Protected categories of works include literary works, works of journalism or scholarship, dramatic works, works of fine or graphic art, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, musical compositions (including lyrics) and sound recordings.

In the United States, any work first published before 1923 is in the public domain and can be used freely. Works first published from 1923 to 1977 are subject to a 95-year term of copyright, but could be in the public domain for failure to register or renew copyright. Any work first published 1978 and later is subject to a term of life of the last surviving author plus 70 years.

Note: Recorded music or video of these works is not in the public domain; producers or artists own copyrights of their performances of the public domain material.

Using copyrighted works legally

If a work is in copyright, in order to use it (i.e., copy, record, make a derivative work, distribute, perform, or display) legally, your use must be licensed (legal permission from the copyright owner) or fair use.

Fair use is determined by purpose and character of the use, nature of copyrighted work, amount of the work used in proportion to the whole, and effect on the potential market of the copyrighted work.

Fair use for educational purposes is generally, but not entirely, limited to face-to-face classroom instruction, or, with certain conditions, online distance education. This extends to activities that support this use, such as making copies for students enrolled in a course, uploading materials to Oncourse or Canvas, or clipping, copying and adapting materials in student works created as part of a course assignment, for the sole purpose of performance and evaluation in the class (NOT on the Web).

Uses of a copyrighted work that exceed fair use require a license or permission. For example, a student using a musical recording as the soundtrack for an audio-visual recording completed for a course could likely rely on fair use for the student assignment shown only in class. But the student would need a license to show the work publicly outside the class (including on the Web) or to publicize or promote themselves or their work (such as including in an online portfolio).

Also, simply giving credit is not enough. You need written permission from the copyright holder.

How to obtain copyright permission

This can be an arduous and occasionally expensive process. But if students are willing, here are guidelines.

The first step in clearing works in copyright is to identify the rights holders and their contact information. Possible sources for this information include a physical copy of the work itself. Look for the copyright notice (©) on the work. For works registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, you can search copyright records at www.copyright.gov. Works registered with the Copyright Clearance Center can be searched at www.copyright.com. Product information on Amazon.com often includes the current publisher or copyright holder for a work. Musical works are typically registered with the Harry Fox Agency, ASCAP, BMI or SESAC.

Most publishers and media companies maintain websites with licensing information. You can request permission either by online form or email. Identify your intended uses precisely. Publishers will often indicate the information they need for permissions. Some common media licensing websites include:

Upon approval and receipt of a permission or licensing agreement, review its terms to make sure they cover your intended uses. If it is in order, sign it, then return it with the required fee by the due date or upon publication. Include the copyright owner’s required copyright notification on any copies or derivative works.

Music from Killer Tracks

The easiest way for students to add music to their projects is to use Killer Tracks, a robust database of thousands of songs. The school subscribes to this service, which offers an alternative to Creative Commons and other copyright-free options. For more information about how students log in and use Killer Tracks, email mschtune@indiana.edu


Students also may use some Web-based services such as Creative Commons to find art or music for the Web projects. However, part of their class assignments should be to identify the usage requirements, such as link-backs to the original material or other credit, and incorporate that into their projects.

What they must not do is include copyrighted music in their videos, embed videos they did not produce, use images they did not take for the project or otherwise present protected materials in their work on the website. 

Additional help

The IU Libraries has a Copyright Program Librarian who is available for individual consultations or classroom presentations. Contact Nazareth A. Pantaloni, Copyright Program Librarian, Indiana University Libraries, Wells Library E350-40, 812-855-7028 or nazapant@indiana.edu.

IU Libraries also has online resources, such as this page about copyright. 

Media School use of student work

The Media School displays exceptional work produced in classes both on its website and other promotional formats. In these cases, the school will execute a licensing agreement and obtain permission from the content creator before displaying the work.