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Copyright Guide For Students: Don’t Get Caught Out! [Understanding Creative Commons, Fair Use And Plagiarism]

As a student, you will have to make numerous assignments and projects during your entire academic period. You need a variety of resources to make your assignment. And you are naturally dependent on the Internet to gather such resources.

But, whenever you want to download something, for example, books, images, sketches, pages, etc., you always see that they are copyrighted materials, and to meet your needs, you are compelled to use these materials.

Well, do you know that it is illegal to use copyright-protected materials without taking the permission of the copyright holders? Yes, according to Copyright Law, the intellectual properties protected by copyright are illegal for users to use. 

Copyright holders are not providing their works for free, so in this case, if you want to use their resources, you have to get permission from the copyright holders. Using the materials without permission is a definite offense.

Well, this Student Copyright Guide will introduce you to copyright law and tell you the process of using others’ works or copyright-protected materials while complying with copyright. Additionally, we’ll outline how you, as a copyright owner, can protect your intellectual assets with copyright protection.

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What Is Copyright?

Copyright refers to the legal protection provided for some specific works of art. Intellectual properties, such as text content, images, books, videos, music, and more creativity by specific individuals, are considered copyright materials. 

Created work of art is called “Copyright Protected Work.” Suppose you own the copyright on some specific work; no one can copy your original content or copyright material and use them for their own purposes without your permission. If one does so, it would be a copyright violation.

However, you can sell and trade your copyright work. Also, you can inherit your copyright-protected works from someone. If any user uses your copyrighted materials in their content without your permission, their contents will receive copyright strikes. Two aspects of copyright protection exist.

  • Your rights in the copyrighted works you are creating as creator, like text, images, songs, assignments, papers, theses, etc.
  • The rights of other content creators to their copyrighted works you are using for your own purpose.

A. Why Should You Care About Copyright Law?

These are the many reasons that make it appropriate to take care of Copyright Law. Some of them are described below:

  • If you have a running website, then you have to deal with various issues related to copyright law. You can face these issues on the producer’s side and the users’ side.
  • If your business deals with snap photographs, published music, and more, then it is your copyrightable work, which means original and unique content. Whether you allow others to use your copyrighted material is your personal decision. No one can interfere in this. The same applies in the case of copyrighted materials of others. That’s why you should be aware of such things related to copyright.
  • Without permission, you use someone’s work, and it is not ethical or legal. Therefore, whenever you want to use another’s created material, you must, of course, obtain permission and understand the licensing system of the copyrighted material. That is, is the content you want to use legal or not?
  • Copyright Law and its implementation are taking their roots in the modern world. Therefore, you need to consider several things while using copyrighted properties. However, there are several principles that can act as a shield to protect you from copyright infringement. You can learn about it in detail through our article Student Copyright Guide.

B. 5 Major Rules Regarding Copyright

Before using copyrighted material, you should be well aware of copyright. Here we are presenting 5 major rules regarding copyright.

  • Whatever you find on the Internet does not mean that they are available for free use to all users. Even if you’re a student, you can’t access all content on the Internet completely for free.
  • Many resources and works with a Creative Commons licence or that are in the public domain are free to use by students or anyone else.
  • If you are an author, you have every right to have your assignments, research papers, or other original works (such as photography, videography, and music) protected under copyright protection. No one is granted to copy your content here. In contrast, you have the option to license your original content to a Creative Commons. i.e., people are allowed to use your copyrighted material.
  • When you want to use other material, you need to make sure whether it is allowed to be used commonly or not? If you cannot be sure of the license of the copyrighted material, contact the content creator, and find a free alternative to use the material. Apart from this, purchase the material you need from the original content creator. Doing so will give you the right to use the copyrighted work.
  • Most importantly, you must be an ethical and responsible digital user and follow the guidelines of what you use on the Internet.

C. What Types Of Work Can Be Protected By Copyright?

There are different types of work, ranging from writing to film, that can be protected by copyright. Here is a list of works that are qualified for copyright protection.

  • Music: Including songs, scores, arrangements, sound recordings, and more.
  • Writing: Including poems, stories, quotes, novels, dramas or plays, journalism, novels, blog posts, articles, and so on.
  • Visual art:  Painting, drawing, sketches, photography, graphics, and more
  • Video Content: Including YouTube videos, webinars, animated GIFs, etc.
  • Dance Choreography
  • Movies
  • Architecture & Sculpture
  • Computer Software
  • Typographical

Under Copyright Law, copyright protection is given in a “fixed and tangible” form of work. You cannot get copyright ownership for any concept or idea related to any work of art. Copyright eligibility requires you to have completed works.

Let’s make it clear with an example. Let’s say that as a student, you have a great idea for any project, but you can’t claim copyright protection just for your idea. You need to complete the work of the project, and your project will be eligible for copyright protection.

D. The Works Not Protected By Copyright Protection

You can see that a wide variety of works on the Internet are considered copyrighted materials and are protected by copyright protection. Nevertheless, many things aren’t eligible for copyright. Here is a list of the intellectual properties that can’t be protected by copyright.

  • Real Facts
  • Ideas, concepts, systems, procedures, and processes, principles, and discoveries
  • Names, slogans, and short phrases
  • Works created by government, employees
  • Specific works come under the public domain.

E. How Long Does Copyright Last?

Copyright protection for created works is not on a permanent basis. You are only allowed to enforce copyright for your digital assets for a limited time. After the copyright protection period for your specific work expires, your work will be deemed to be under the public domain. As a copyright holder, you cannot exclude other users from accessing and using your original work.

However, Copyright Law has changed to an extent over time, and in the amended laws of copyright, copyright protection for a work will be provided considering many things. Now, the factors on which the duration of copyright for a specific work of the creator depends are,

  • When was the specific work created and published?
  • Who is the real owner of the created work?
  • What were legal formalities obeyed in the work published by the owner?

In general terms, the copyright protection period is fixed for the life of the content creator with an additional 70 years.


Your Rights as a Content Creator

The creator of any work is allowed to own the copyright of their specific work. It is critical to identify the real owner of the copyrighted assets. The reason is only the owner of the work has been given the power to regulate the different ways how their work is used by people. As a student, you can claim the copyright in your own scholarly works, such as assignments, and projects, under OSU’s Copyright Policy.

1. What Rights Does a Copyright Owner Have?

Being a copyright owner, you will have a number of exclusive rights that enable you to perform different types of work. You are allowed to 

  • Regenerate your work
  • Make ready derivative works
  • Distribute your work where you want
  • Show your work publicly
  • Continue your work publicly
  • When it comes to recording sound, do your work publicly via digital transmission.

As a copyright holder, you are possessed with exclusive rights with respect to your content. Hence, if any user wants to use your copyright materials, he must obtain permission for the same. You are granted the right to sell, license, and transfer your work to any person.

2. How Do I License My Work?

Licensing your work means that you are allowing another party to exercise your exclusive rights or transfer ownership of your copyrighted works. Licensing work is done under a set of agreed terms. Therefore, you will have options to choose under what conditions you want to license your work.

You can opt for a licensing scheme between an exclusive license and a non-exclusive license. You will receive payment for the use of your work, the number of times your work can be used, and the manner in which the work can be used. When you grant your exclusive license, it is crucial to have proof of a signed agreement.

You can also decide on an open license, i.e., Creative Commons. This is the most popular licensing system for copyrighted work that comes from a non-profit organization. This licensing system is generous and gives grants to share others’ copyrighted works.

Those content creators who prefer the Creative Commons licensing system for their work, they start with a default “All Rights Reserved” status, which indicates that their work is protected by copyright protection. If the creators wish to change their status, they can change it at any time with “Some Rights Reserved.”

Under the Creative Commons licensing system, you may copy, share, distribute, or reproduce copyright-protected property. Specific rules apply to each person’s work. Therefore, you should check each copyrighted work thoroughly before using it for your needs. In addition, provisions exist for both personal and commercial use under Creative Commons licensing.

3. Copyright Registration Process

Any kind of creative work of yours is automatically copyrighted. Hence, you do not need to register separately for copyright protection for your work. Nevertheless, if you intend, you can get your copyrighted work registered. In order to perform a copyright registration, you must first qualify for the right holder. 

Then by filling in the required details in the registration form that you can download from the US, the U.S. Copyright Office’s website, and submit the form with registration fees. With copyright registration, you will be allowed to do the following three things:

  • Establish yourself legally as the individual copyright owner of your intellectual property.
  • Legally establish the date of creation or publication of your work.
  • If someone violates your copyright protection, you will be able to take legal action.

The biggest advantage of copyright registration is that you can approach any jurisdiction in case someone violates your copyright. Without copyright registration, you cannot take action against your copyright infringement. So, if you want to sue people for your copyright infringement, copyright registration is the only solution.

This is not imperative to register for copyright immediately. If you establish your creation date by some other means, you may delay your copyright registration until someone begins to infringe on your copyright. Copyright registration processing time is very long, up to a year. So, it is not a viable option.

If you are outside the US or seeking more immediate international protection you may wish to consider the UK Copyright Service ( or their international site ( as they offer immediate cover without long processing times. Work lodged with the UK Copyright Service can be used as evidence to assist in legal cases across the world.


Using Copyrighted Works

If you wish to use any third party’s copyright-protected material in a manner covered by the creator’s set of rights for your own purpose, you must obtain permission from the copyright holder. Permission may be automatic or may be subject to several conditions.

It quietly depends on the process of using the status of copyright materials. If your permission is not secured and your use of another’s work is not protected by law, there is a probability of copyright infringement.

Your work as a student should be unique and original. Whatever text, images, or videos you use on your assignments should be original. If your assignment is found to use copyright-protected text, images, etc., of another author, your assignment will not pass.

Therefore, you should be careful in using any resource from the Internet. When using another’s created work, you need to ensure that your use of the other’s work is subject to reasonable exceptions or the conditions of any licenses associated with the work.

If the copyright license does not allow the use of your work, the only solution in the circumstances to include the work of a third party in your assignment is to obtain permission from the copyright owner.

1. Summary of General Rules in the Use of Copyrighted Works

  • ‘Fair Use’ only endorses the use of the right amount for your research work.
  • Keep providing the attribute in the form of a quote.
  • The use of archival work has conventionally also included a credit line for collection.
  • Make sure there are no concerns regarding privacy, trademark, license, promotional rights, etc.
  • The use should not interfere with the market for actual work.
  • If any license agreement applies to the content you intend to use, you should consult the License Terms.
  • In general, you have no right to modify the work of any third party being used without the permission of the copyright owner.

2. Difference Between Copyright Infringement and Plagiarism

Plagiarism means to copy the ideas and works of others and running them in your own name without acknowledgment. All published or unpublished works that are copied from someone else’s content, such as text, or script, are incorporated in Plagiarism. 

In contrast, copyright infringement means to reproduce, distribute, perform, and publicly display someone’s copyrighted, protected work or use the copyrighted materials in your content without obtaining the permission of the copyright owners.

Well, as a student, you must avoid the claim of plagiarism in your project, thesis, or assignment. The simple way to remove plagiarism is to use quotations when quoting other’s resources directly and when citing used resources. Also, a better solution is to translate other words into your own words.

In contrast, the same strategy cannot protect a student from a copyright infringement claim in the case of copyright infringement. Therefore, when a student needs to use a copyright-protected work in their work, they must obtain permission to use the work. They can do this either under copyright law or through the copyright owner.

3. Why Should I Avoid Plagiarism?

As a student, your works, such as assignments or research papers, need to reflect your own knowledge, thoughts, and ideas on the specific topic. Hence, copying from other content is not appropriate and acceptable in this case. When you write something, it should sound original. 

Because of advanced technology, it is now quite easy to copy anything from other content and paste it into your own content. Sometimes, students do so unintentionally. But, his plagiarized material loses track of the original sources. Therefore, a student should avoid plagiarism while creating their content. From the point of view of ethics also, this plagiarism is involved in the act of injustice.

Hence, when you need to include a few lines of someone else’s material in your own work, you need to give credit for the original work through citations. 


Using Works Inside The Classroom

A copyright owner has usually offered many exclusive rights in their intellectual work. A general rule is as a student when you want to use copyright-protected content in an exclusive manner, you need permission from the copyright owner. Nevertheless, copyright law offers many significant exceptions to this ordinary law.

Under the exceptions, you get the flexibility to use the copyrighted work of someone without his permission, depending on in which manner the copyrighted work is used.

1. Exception 1: Face-To-Face Teaching Exception

The use of students’ work when presenting in the classroom may be protected under the face-to-face teaching exception. Under section 110(1), the Copyright Act allows students to execute a legally created copy during face-to-face teaching works.

1. Exception 2: The Digital Transmission Exception

The protection of copyrighted works in face-to-face teaching may also expand to digital transmission via online courses. Copyright Act. Section 110(2) provides this exception. There are a number of restrictions on the exception stated below:

  • The work is not created and marketed primarily for distance learning.
  • The work must be legally created and obtained.
  • Transmission should be created under the genuine supervision of the teacher.
  • The performance should be restricted to the amount that is typically done in a live classroom session.
  • The display or performance should be related and of material aid to teaching material.

Using Works Outside The Classroom

When you use copyrighted resources outside the classroom, like uploading copyrighted material on personal blogs, submitting work in digital repositories, live musical performances, etc., then it may be problematic. That’s because now, you are using this work outside the classroom and without a teaching atmosphere. 

And now, eye-to-eye learning and exceptional digital transmission learning exceptions will not apply. However, Copyright Law offers an additional exception to the execution of non-dramatic literature.

1. Exception: Non-Profit Public Performances Without An Admission Charge

Copyright Act. Under Section 110(4) allows a mass performance exception to nondramatic literature. However, nondramatic literary or musical work is not determined in the Copyright Act. US Copyright Office usually elaborates dramatical works (plays and radio & television scripts) that are performed with purpose and typically incorporate text, plot, and guidelines for the action said on.

You can execute non-dramatic works publicly without permission from the copyright holder. However, you can do it as long as:

  • The performance is provided directly by a live performer or not transmitted to the public by broadcast.
  • The performance doesn’t have any kind of commercial benefit.
  • There is no entry fee, direct or indirect.

2. How Do I Seek Permission To Use A Work?

When you use a copyrighted work that is not under the legal exception, it is not granted for use via an open license scheme. Under the circumstances, as a student, you can adopt a 3-step approach that we are explaining underneath.

Step 1: 

The initial step will be to identify the copyright owner in the process. Here is one thing you have to know that the actual creator of the work may not be the copyright holder. The copyright owner may be a new owner who has possessed the exclusive rights of the work of the original owner. In other words, the real owner of the work has transferred the rights in his copyrighted work to a third party.

Step 2: 

  • After completing the copyright owner identification, your next step will be to request permission from the work owner to use his copyrighted content.

Step: 3

  • In the final step process, you need to negotiate terms of use with the copyright owner. There are four ways available that you can use for the copyrighted materials or the assignment that you want to make. The four ways are,
    • Can you use the complete work?
    • How will the copyright owner be credited?
    • Can you change work?
    • Do you need to pay for using copyrighted work?

Endeavor for the broadest set of exclusive rights. Most importantly, check thoroughly that all terms are clean and clear before using any copyrighted work. It’s best to preserve copyright permission records.

3. Where Can I Find Public Domain Works To Use?

Public domain works refer to work that is free from any copyright, trademark, or patent protection. They have no owners and are freely available for use by the users. Moreover, no restrictions are imposed on using public domain works. Anyone can use public domain works as they are not protected by copyright protection.

You will find a wide range of resources on the Internet. Using these, you will be able to recognize public domain works. Here is a list of some useful public domain resources.

4. How Do I Use Work Under A Creative Commons License?

There are a number of works available under this licensing scheme, i.e., The Creative Commons license we have mentioned somewhere in the Student Copyright Guide above. You may use these works under different conditions depending on the terms of the selected license. The term of a copyright license may be determined by a visible mark attached to the protected work. For example:

  • CC BY-ND Attribution 
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA
  • CC BY-NC Attribution-NonCommercial
  • Public Domain
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs

If the copyright owner permits you to use his work, and both parties give their consent to an exclusive license, the agreement should be in writing form.

In order to correctly attribute the specific information that needs to be included are,

  • Title of the copyrighted work
  • Content creator’s name
  • Source of the image
  • Any copyright information incorporated with the work
  • Information that conveys the category of Creative Commons license  

Student Publication

According to OSU’s Copyright Policy, students are allowed to obtain copyright protection in their academic work, such as thesis and research papers. As the creator of original works, a student has the option of getting more exposure to their creative work by publishing their research as the media of a research journal. This act is associated with licensing as well as transferring the creator’s exclusive rights to the publisher through a publishing activity.

Publishing Agreement

Students’ awareness is of paramount importance in signing publication agreements. When signing a publication agreement, you need to be sure what rights you want to retain and what rights you want to transfer under specific conditions. 

Read the terms of the agreement carefully and ask for the rights you want and be aware of what you are signing. Consider asking your publisher to grant only important rights to publish.

Students have benefited from the support of the OSU Governance on the CIC Statement on Publishing Agreements and the Addendum. Now, students can use this supplement to retain the non-exclusive right to utilize their content for academic and professional purposes.

Remember, any formerly granted use of third-party content within your work may not be allowed when you ask for it to be published, as it is being delivered to a wider audience.


Fair Use

In a general sense, your copyright work should be under one of the particular statutory exceptions provided by Copyright Law. Also, you have to seek permission from copyright holders to use their intellectual properties. If not so, naturally, you will fall into copyright infringement.

However, there is an effective defense to any possible claim of infringement is fair use. Fair use acts as a limitation on the rights of an owner. In fair use cases, a person can take advantage of using a copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright owner.

What is Fair Use?

The ‘Fair Use’ is termed the US provision within US Copyright Law. According to the provision, small portions of a copyright-protected work are granted to be used under certain situations that include quotations, reporting, teaching, research work, and more.

How Do I Know If My Intended Purpose Is 'Fair'?

“Fair use” is a legal defense against copyright violations. It protects users in the wide range of use of copyrighted material in different circumstances. When determining the specific use of a work and whether it is eligible for fair use, some of the factors mentioned underneath should be taken into account.

  • Special consideration should be given to the intent of use and character when determining “Fair Use.” 
  • The nature of the copyright-protected material
  • When quoting content or using images in your work, you should consider the extent of the copyright, the extent of the portion used, and relative to the real work.
  • The law will take into account the impact of your utilization over the potential market for the copyrighted material.

The above factor provides the structure for the ‘Fair Use’ of the study, but no single factor can be determined. ‘Fair use’ is determined by a court, and hence, using copyrighted material without the owner’s permission is terrible because you can’t know earlier that your use of the content will be considered “fair .”A lawyer can provide you with the right guidance in the matter of ‘Fair Use’; however, the ultimate decision lies with the court.

By law, you don’t need permission from the copyright owner to use quotes, excerpts, or images in your work that constitutes ‘Fair Use’ copyrighted material. Plus, you don’t have to pay to use the copyright owner’s content. However, this area of ​​law is unclear, and there is no strong law on the determination of “Fair Use.”

Hence, it would be best for the students to use only the required copyright material to accomplish their needs and to use them very technically that adds something new to their original work. And In addition, it gives a new structure to his work.



A student must be familiar with copyright law. Generally, being a student, you require to download, copy or use various materials from the Internet regardless of copyright or copyright free. But, in the case of copyright, you need to use copyrighted materials complying with copyright. I Hope our detailed Student Copyright Guide has been able to enlighten you with various aspects of Copyright Law.

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