Copyright and Fair Use - Digital Promise

Copyright and Fair Use

Do not include copyrighted music or other outside media in your videos unless you have explicit permission to use it – you can use Creative Commons licensed, public domain, or your own musical creations.

What is copyright?

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright is “a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.” Once you create a piece of work and attach it to a tangible medium (paper, word document, music track, video clip) you automatically own the right to copy it. In order to prove your copyright over the work you can apply for copyright protection.

What does copyright protect?

“Copyright protects original works of authorship including literary works (including computer software and compilations), music, dramatic works, pantomimes, choreographic work, pictorial, graphic, and sculpture works (such as maps and blueprints), motion pictures and other audio/visual works, sound recordings, and architecture.”

What is “Fair Use”?

“Fair use” is the right of the public to make reasonable use of copyrighted material in special circumstances without the Copyright Owner’s Permission. The United States Copyright Act recognizes that fair use of a copyrighted work may be used “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.”

Can I use photos and music I find on the internet?

Unless you know the person that created the work and have obtained their permission, you are at risk of violating someone else’s copyright. Try using music from local bands that you can ask directly for their permission. If you are inspired by a photograph you see online, try recreating the photo yourself or with the help of a local photographer or graphic designer.

What if I want to use only a few seconds of another video for my student project?

Whether you are a professional or student media maker, whether you use a few seconds of another person’s video or music clip, you are still at risk of using another person’s work without their permission.

Is there any free music I can use? is a great resource for free music. When you checkout you can choose from different types of licenses that cost money or are free depending on how you plan to use the music. Read the options carefully and use the music only in the ways outlined in the license you choose.

Creative Commons Legal Music For Videos – Many musicians choose to release their songs under Creative Commons licenses, which give you the legal right to do things like use their music in your videos.

Purple planet royalty free music – Free collection of Royalty Free Music available for download, composed and performed by Geoff Harvey and Chris Martyn. Music can be used free of charge for web-based projects e.g. YouTube (see ‘Using Our Music’ for more info) in exchange for a link to this website.

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