FAQ: Copyright

Can I used copyrighted material in my project?

Simply put..no. Even though the media you produce in classes as a student is typically given greater protection under “fair use, the work you produce in COM210 should be publishable outside of the classroom and in your commercial creative portfolio. To meet this criteria, your projects in COM210 cannot use copyrighted material, so you are able to present them in a commercial setting as examples of your work.

For more information about fair use, see the articles from the Copyright reading assignment and the Image and Media Usage Policy for the course. If you have any questions about whether you can use a specific piece of media in an assignment, please consult your TA before you take the time to incorporated it into your digital media creation.

Can I use content from social media sites like Facebook or Tumblr?

In this course, you cannot use copyrighted material in your projects. So can you ever use images, audio tracks or other media shared on social media sites?

Usually not. Just because something is shared online doesn’t mean it’s free to use. Copyrighted material often gets shared on social media sites, but that does not mean it’s legal to do so.

Some social networking sites make users agree to Terms of Use allowing their images to be reused, but this doesn’t apply to uses outside the site. For example, Tumblr allows reblogging of content throughout its site, but this does not extend to downloading or using that content outside of Tumblr.

Flickr lets users choose a Creative Commons license, which is clearly displayed and linked to the specific terms.
Flickr lets users choose a Creative Commons license, which is clearly displayed with each image.

Flickr is one example of a site where users can choose to label their images as free-to-use with the Creative Commons license. Most social media sites don’t give users the option to choose a copyright designation, so there is no way to know whether the owner would let you use their content. If you want to use content posted by someone else on social media, you do have the option to ask for permission directly. This may be easy if the content is owned by a person or organization you already know, but you still need to get documentation that they’re allowing you to use it.

Finally, this may be obvious, but you must also make sure to get permission from the true owner of the material. You might be able to find the soundtrack from “Frozen” posted on Soundcloud by a user named “elsafan4ever” but that person is not the legal owner and cannot give you permission to use it.

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