This resource will be divided into three areas: overview for all web sites, using content on your site, and additional content for closed systems. We encourage everyone to review the overview area before creating content for any website. For those who are unfamiliar with copyright in general, you can find more information about copyright and what is protected by copyright by visiting Faculty Copyright Basics and/or Student Copyright Basics.
Content that you create for the web will be placed in a "fixed, tangible medium" meaning that your work may have copyright protection. You are encouraged to take an active role in managing your copyrights. As the original copyright holder you have the right to reproduce the work, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, and perform and display the work publicly. You express a variety of these rights when you place your content on the web. However, sometimes content that you are using for your website is not always your original content. If that is the case you must determine if the work is protected and if you have proper permission or exemption for your use.
Pictures of puppies or kittens may be priceless in your mind, but if it is someone else's content maximum damages for copyright infringement can reach $150,000. If you are creating internet content at K-State, these damages may be the university or yours to pay. Let’s work together to avoid these damages. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, "copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without a license or permission of the copyright owner." In other words, if you use someone's stuff without their approval, you could be committing copyright infringement.
Overall, it is recommended to avoid copyrighted content that is not your own, unless there is a very specific and clear reason for using it (e.g. you decide you need a unique photo of an animal with heterochromia iridum, which is a type of eye color differentiation, and you have to explain the genetic anomaly in this specific animal, and there are no other photos available or other form of media/medium that would meet your needs) and your use is permitted under an exemption in the U.S. law. Licenses, written permissions, and exemptions are ways that website designers, creators, and editors can incorporate copyrighted material into their content pages without infringement.
As a website creator/editor at K-State, you should avoid using the following:
When in doubt, throw it out! Alternatively, when in doubt, link it out! If you link to the content, you are not copying or distributing the content yourself, so you are not responsible for any alleged copyright infringement claims. However, you should avoid linking out to websites with malicious, inappropriate, suspicious, or illegal activity.
If you are a Content Management System (CMS) editor for a K-State website, local K-State photography is preferred to imagery found online. K-State owns the copyright to many images, and it is a valuable resource for K-State web creators and editors. You can peruse the image gallery of K-State Photo Services or request photographer services.
You may also chose to take an image yourself, otherwise try one of the options below.
Content that is in the public domain does not have copyright protection, usually because the content's copyright term has expired or because the creator decided to dedicate the item to the public domain, and are are free to use. For more information about the public domain please visit the Public Domain page, which will give you an idea of what content might be in the public domain, how to determine what content is in the public domain, and resources/tools for helping you determine if content is in the public domain as well as resources for finding public domain content. Here are a couple of resources to get you started:
Attribution (credit) is not legally required for public domain content, but it is recommended for avoiding any plagiarism issues, especially in academic works.
During your searches you may also find content that is Open Access (OA), which means that it is free to reuse and often has a open license or Creative Commons license attached to the content. If you aren't sure, look for an open license or the OA icon attached to the work (e.g. a scholarly article):
Creative Commons Licensed (CCL) content is openly-licensed directly by the copyright holder to any user, meaning that it has fewer restrictions than other content found online. Copyright holders use CCL to communicate to online users that their content can be used under a few terms. The terms of these licenses are less restrictive than current U.S. copyright law. To learn more about the terms of the licenses, check out this infographic.
While copyright law implies that all rights are reserved, CCL implies that some rights are reserved. For example, one of the licenses is called Creative Commons-Attribution (CC-BY) and requires only that you give attribution/credit to the original creator. The Creative Commons-Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA) requires that you give attribution and share the work with the same license. Here is an example of an image with a CC-BY-SA license reshared here with proper attribution:
You can search for CCL content a number of ways:
With this content you run only a slight risk that this content was mislabeled as creative commons content. This happens more often with modified images as proper consideration of the original images copyright was not conducted or the creator did not have possession of a legal copy of the original image. Google's reverse image search can be helpful in determining the origination of the image and the current copyright status. To conduct a reverse image search, go to Google Images, click on the camera icon, and you can either upload the image or copy/paste the URL of the image.
In addition to using CCL content you can also apply a CCL to your site or works within your site (such as images). Like the traditional copyright symbol, ©, Creative Commons provides icons that you can embed into your website code to indicate that it's licensed under Creative Commons. To apply a CC license to your own work you can choose a license directly from creativecommons.org. If you cannot embed the icons, you can also copy/paste the license icon into your webpage or simply link to the license like in the example of the photo (above) of Bocaina National Park.
There are many images and other types of materials online that are individually-licensed, such as Shutterstock images. Many of these materials are time-licensed, meaning that the license may have an expiration date, even if you pay for it. If you choose to buy licensed materials, be careful of expiration dates; if you post a time-licensed image online after the license expires, you would be committing copyright infringement.
We strongly recommend avoiding individual licensed materials altogether. If you come across an image and are not sure whether it is licensed, it's recommended that you not use it. If it is a licensed image, and you do not have a license to use it, do not use it; this includes images and content that have watermarks applied to them.
Sometimes, when you use others' copyrighted content, your use can be in more in favor of fair use (Section 107 of U.S. copyright law), which is the most widely used exception within U.S. copyright law. However, it has to be a very solid argument to make a case for your use of the copyrighted work when making content freely and publicly available online to everyone. Want to use content on your website under fair use? Make a fair use evaluation using the Fair Use Evaluator tool. This tool will walk you through the steps and produce a time-stamped PDF for your records. Check out the Fair Use page for more information about fair use and the four factors of fair use.
If you absolutely need to use a copyrighted work, and your use is not covered under a license or an exemption, then you should obtain written permission from the copyright holder to use the work. With permission, you may be able to easily use the entire work or to use it in ways not allowed by a license or exemption. For more information on where and how to obtain permission please visit Obtaining Permission.
Generally, if you are logged into K-State (with your eID and password), you are also granted access to K-State Libraries materials that you find through search engines, such as Google. Library-licensed materials also include those accessed on K-State Libraries databases and SearchIt!. If you're not sure if the content is library licensed look for "Kansas State University Libraries" or these key images that may appear next to scholarly articles or other types of materials:
"Get it at KSU" link example
|"Get it" logo for |
In addition, if you are using library-licensed materials for an online course, such as on Canvas, you should consider providing permalinks to the materials rather than including them in Canvas for students to download directly; this is beneficial for two reasons:
Need help with permalinks? Check out the Permalinks for Electronic and Physical Resources or use LinkIt to create an accessible link. For information about permalinks, check out Linking to Online Resources: Using Permalinks.
These exemptions are very specific to what is allowed. Section 110(1) covers instruction in face-to-face teaching while Section 110(2) covers distance education, or online instruction. TEACH Act is restrictive, and generally, you are only permitted to use copyrighted material as part of a course that is "a regular part of the systematic mediated instructional activities" and the transmission of such materials is solely for students enrolled in the course (e.g. students in a course who login to Canvas to access the materials for the course). For more information please visit Using Material for Your Course.
The creator usually is the initial copyright holder. If two or more people jointly create a work, they are joint holders of the copyright, with equal rights. When authors publish, sometimes they sign their copyright over to the publishers.
If a work is created as a part of a person's employment, that work is a "work for hire" and the copyright belongs to the employer, unless the employer explicitly grants rights to the employee in a signed agreement. If the creator is hired as a contractor, then the creator (rather than the company/employer) may be the copyright holder. Please visit Circular 9: Works Made for Hire from the U.S. Copyright Office for more information on "work for hire."
If you are an employee at K-State, you may or may not hold the copyright to the content you create in the course of your employment. Generally, full-time staff members at K-State do not hold the copyright to the materials they create in the course of their work duties, especially if the content is specifically related to K-State. In this case, copyright is held by Kansas State University and the work is considered a "work made for hire" under U.S. copyright law and by K-State's Intellectual Property Policy. Please refer to Section I: Copyrights of the policy for more information.
You should consider the questions in the chart below to determine whether you or K-State hold the copyright to the work you create while working at K-State.
|Why/how did you create the work?||Who holds the copyright?||Exceptions|
As part of the normal course of your employment at K-State
(e.g. an employee becomes a web content editor/creator for K-State and creates content for a departmental website)
The copyright may be held by you if:
As a K-State employee using substantial institutional resources when creating the work
(e.g. a Graduate Teaching Assistant uses software licensed to K-State to create teaching materials)
"Substantial use" is defined as receiving staff, salary, or material support beyond that normally provided to the creators at K-State.
K-State owns the copyright to the specific materials but not to the intellectual content of the courseware.
In the course of your employment for scholarly or artistic means
(e.g. a Graduate Research Assistant taking photos for a research project under the direction of a faculty member)
Scholarly and artistic works can include "textbooks, scholarly monographs, trade publications, maps, charts, articles in popular magazines and newspapers, novels, nonfiction works, supporting materials, artistic works, syllabi, lecture notes, and like works" (University Handbook, Appendix R: Intellectual Property Policy and Institutional Procedures, Section I.A.).
The copyright may not be held by you if:
As a student as part of a course at K-State
(e.g. your academic works)
|You||The copyright will always be held by you, but K-State holds a nonexclusive, royalty-free license to mark on, modify, and retain your academic works.|