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Copyright Guide: Frequently Asked Questions

Are copyright, trademark, and patent all the same thing?

No. Copyright protects original works created in a fixed form. (Sorry, ideas don't count.) Trademark is more geared toward corporations and businesses who want to establish a company brand. Logos, for example, are trademarked. A patent is a property right relating to an invention. They are good for a limited duration and granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

To put it another way, a Disney cartoon would fall under copyright. A dispute over Disney's mouse ear logo would fall under trademark. But if Disney invented the world's best mousetrap and wanted to be the only ones who could build it for limited duration, that would fall under patent law.

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Can I embed this YouTube video?

First, check to see if you have permission to do so. Sometimes there is a "permission to use" notice or Creative Commons license at the end of the video that will allow this. There may also be a permission notice in the notes section of the video (where it says "Show More"). If you don't see one, and you didn't create the video yourself, DON'T DO IT

Even if there is an embed option on the YouTube video that the creator hasn't disabled? I mean, it's right there.

Even so. 

But I really want to.

Too bad. Don't do it. According to the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to "defend civil liberties in the digital world", it could mean trouble:

If you link to a video that you know is infringing, or that any reasonable person would have known is infringing, and if your link materially contributes to the infringement, then you could be liable for contributory infringement -- a kind of "aiding and abetting" liability.

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Can I use this image in my [PowerPoint presentation, Prezi, slide, website, Moodle module, etc.]?

That isn't an easy answer. First, please remember that we are not lawyers and can't give you legal advice. (Also, we don't know everything. Shhh! Don't tell anyone!) If you want the definitive "yes or no," please contact the Atrium Health legal team.

However, this video may answer your question, or maybe this page on fair use. If those don't answer your question, check for a Creative Commons license or contact information. Sometimes creators give permission in one way or another without you having to ask them first.

You can always email us with your question. We'll be happy to help you figure it out, or point you in the right direction.

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Can I use x-ray images?

Yes, so long as the X-ray image has not been altered in any way. Also, please remember to exclude any identifying names or marks. (That's not a copyright thing, that falls under HIPAA, but that's still good practice.)

Read "Who Owns the Copyright to Your X-ray?" by Alan Murabayashi and The Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices: Chapter 300 for more information.

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Can you give me permission to use this image for my [PowerPoint presentation, Prezi, slide, website, Moodle module, etc.]?

No. The only person who can give permission is the copyright holder, and unless one of the librarians here at the Charlotte AHEC library created the work, we cannot give anyone permission to use a work. You may be able to get permission from the copyright holder, however.

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Do I have to register with your office to be protected? Do I need to use the copyright symbol?

No. Not only do you not have to register, you don't have to use the copyright symbol (©) to claim ownership of your work. (But it's a good reminder for others.) Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. However, you do have to register if you are planning to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. The U.S. Copyright Office has more information on this.

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I'd like to use a [chart, graph, infographic] that I found in a textbook. Is that okay?

You'd be better off making your own graph, chart, infographic, illustration, etc. Numbers and well-established facts aren't covered by copyright law, but how they are presented are. It may be a pain, but taking the extra step can help you avoid bigger headaches in the future.

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What if I make a video that uses a small portion of another video in order to criticize or parody?‚Äč

As a rule of thumb, that's usually (not always) okay if it falls under fair use best practices, but that doesn't mean you won't get grief about it. See the fair use guide for more details.

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Where can I find free images and clip art?

There are several places on the web that offer free images. You can try using some of the websites highlighted through Creative Commons, such as Pixabay and OpenClipArt.

So, I can use Pixabay and OpenClipArt for anything without worrying about copyright? Really? What about...?

Yes. Really. Anything. According to Pixabay:

You can copy, modify, distribute, and use the images, even for commercial purposes, all without asking for permission or giving credits to the artist. However, depicted content may still be protected by trademarks, publicity or privacy rights.

And according to OpenClipArt:

We try to make it clear that you may use all clipart from Openclipart even for unlimited commercial use. We believe that giving away our images is a great way to share with the world our talents and that will come back around in a better form.

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Who can I call or email if I have a general (not legal) question on copyright?

Ask a librarian if you have any questions, or call us at: 704-355-3129. Any of the librarians will be happy to answer your questions, but if you want to contact the "copyright nerd" directly, you can reach Brenda Almeyda at: brenda.almeyda@atriumhealth.org. (I love this stuff).

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Will you look at this 500-slide PowerPoint and tell me which images to take out in order to make this presentation copyright-compliant?

No, sorry. If you have a specific question about a specific image's origin, we'd be happy to look it over and tell you what we think. However, if you have no clue where any of the images, charts, music, or video clips found on the presentation's five hundred slides came from, you should first hunt down the creator of the presentation and ask them to cite that information for you. Although it's true that librarians are all amazing superheroes, we still don't know whom to ask permission from if we don't know where the creative works originated. (We're good, but not that good!)

If you have no clue where it came from, assume that you don't have permission to use it and that it's not copyright-compliant.

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