Intellectual Property (Information Literacy)

Technology has opened a world of creative ideas, images, music and video to today’s students. With a few clicks of a keyboard, it’s easy to access a wealth of resources that can be copied, pasted, saved or uploaded. It’s important that our students understand that there are laws governing the use and/or attribution of other’s creative work. We help our students learn how to navigate digital content by teaching them the basics of intellectual property — plagiarism, copyright and fair use.



Plagiarism is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as: “ to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own :  use (another’s production) without crediting the source.” Today’s technology makes it easy to simply copy and paste text. Sometimes students think that all they need to do is change a few words and they are good to go. Not true! It’s important to cite and appropriately paraphrase information. provides the following helpful video to navigate avoid plagiarism in today’s technology-rich information highway.

Learn more about avoiding plagiarism, citing sources and paraphrasing at


Copyright is a form of legal protection for original works including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic creations. U.S. Copyright laws date back to 1787 when the following language was included in the U.S. Constitution: “the Congress shall have power . . . to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries (Article I, Section 8, Clause 8). Three years later, the First Congress enacted the Copyright Act of 1790 which has since undergone a number of revisions. See the Association of Research Libraries website for a history of copyright in the U.S.

Today, U.S. Copyright provides the originator the exclusive rights to:

  • Reproduce or distribute the original work
  • Develop new works that are based on the original work
  • Perform or display the work in a public venue

The following partial list of copyrighted creations was put together by The American University’s Center for Media & Social Impact from Michael Donaldson, Esq.’s book “Clearance and Copyright:”

  • Books
  • Plays
  • Comic books
  • Songs
  • Musical compositions
  • Recordings of music, even if the music itself is in the public domain
  • Photographs
  • Quilts
  • Choreography
  • Paintings
  • Drawings
  • Sculptures
  • Jewelry
  • Fabric designs, but not the clothes made from them
  • Architectural drawings, but not the buildings created from them
  • Maps, but only the newly created elements, not the location of things on the map
  • Computer programs
  • Movies and scripts for movies and treatments for scripts for movies.
  • Translations of any of the above from one language into another.

For more information on copyright visit Stanford University’s Copyright Basic FAQs or

Fair Use

Stanford University posted A Fair(y) Tale that Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University created to demonstrate copyright and fair use.

Fair Use is a limitation to copyright, allowing people other than the author/creator the use of a copyrighted work without permission. Fair use covers allows the public to use copyrighted material for a limited time and for a “transformative” purpose without permission. Fair use examples including commenting on, criticizing or creating a parody of a copyrighted work.

There are four factors that the courts consider when determining fair use:

  • the purpose and character of the use
  • the nature of the copyrighted work
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market

For more information on Fair Use, visit Stanford University’s Fair Use webpages or