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Copyright: Copyright

Defines copyright and Fair Use


What Is Copyright?

According to the Oxford Languages dictionary, Copyright is the exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.

In simpler terms, copyright is the right to copy. This means that the original creators of products and anyone they give authorization to are the only ones with the exclusive right to reproduce the work, other people must ask their permission to use it or any part of it.

Copyright law gives creators of original material the exclusive right to further use and duplicate that material for a given amount of time, at which point the copyrighted item becomes public domain.


The LAFS Library provides guidance to LAFS faculty, staff, and students using copyrighted works in their research and educational endeavors. This guide and any linked content are intended to provide general information about copyright and do not constitute legal advice.

Copyrighted Works

Copyright offers exclusive rights to the creators of expressive works. These rights include:

  • Making copies
  • Distributing copies
  • Performing or displaying work
  • Making derivative works

What type of works can be copyrighted?

  • literary works
  • musical works, including any accompanying words
  • dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • pantomimes and choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works

Copyright on Campus

The Library is here for Faculty in getting course materials.

Our Library Director can support you in getting course materials (including readings and videos) online, purchasing and licensing materials where necessary, and reviewing relevant copyright issues. The Library Staff can also help identify relevant materials available in the Library's collections or freely online without the risk of copyright infringement. If you need to upload or link to materials for students to access, these are great places to start.

Use what's out there.

The Libraries collections include millions of books, scripts, streaming videos, and other materials to support your teaching without copyright concerns. You can also take advantage of videos, images, and other content made available online under Creative Commons licenses, which allow for reuse with attribution. Other alternatives can be found through the Internet Archive, Wikimedia Commons, etc.

Leverage fair use.

Fair use becomes even more critical in an online learning context where other exemptions in U.S. Copyright Law are more constrained. Fair use is an explicit part of copyright law that allows all of us to repurpose portions of copyright-protected works in contexts such as education and scholarship. Questions to ask as you upload materials for your students or create online lectures include:

  • How does this material support my goals for student learning, and how am I contextualizing or transforming the material through lectures, assignments, etc.?
  • Am I using only enough of the material to meet these goals? This may range from a few pages to an entire work in some cases.
  • How does this public health emergency impact students' access and how might this consideration weigh in favor of fair use? Is there a feasible way for students to access the material at little or no cost? Or is copying and sharing critical to their success in this course? 
Fair use supports accessibility.

The Los Angeles Film School relies on fair use and other areas of copyright law to prioritize access to course materials for students with disabilities.

Lower risk with simple steps.

There are a few ways to share materials while easily lowering your risk of copyright infringement:

  • Link to content: In general, linking to online resources (where you can identify and trust the source) falls within the scope of fair use.
  • Limit distribution: When sharing materials, limit circulation to enrolled students. Remind them that the material is protected by copyright and shouldn't be distributed further.
  • Mind the time: If you are posting lectures, readings, etc. to Canvas that contain copyrighted material, only make these available as long as necessary to meet the needs of your course. In the future, you may decide that fair use no longer to applies to some material.

Free to Use Essentials

CC Search logo

CC Search

Images available for use with attribution


Free to Use & Reuse Sets

Out-of-copyright materials that can be legally used and shared


Directory of Open Access Journals