Copyright, Fair Use, & Public Domain

CIOS F255 - University of Alaska Fairbanks

Understanding the Public Domain, Creative Commons, and Fair Use

In this course you may be using some of your own photos or those of others. If you use a photo with someone’s recognizable face (unless in an openly public venue) you should get permission first (not a copyright issue, but one of courtesy with some potential legal ramifications).

If you use other’s images, you should be aware of copyright as it pertains to the work you are doing in this class and beyond.

Copyright law is designed to be a legal mechanism to protect creators of original content. Technically, most works are protected from the moment they are created. Using images, audio, video, or any other media without the permission of creator is an infringement of copyright.


There are instances where use of copyright-protected material without express permission from the creator/owner may be permitted.

  1. Fair Use  – makes  provision for activities such as teaching and criticism, but has somewhat vague limits. If use of protected material is called into question it will be up to you to defend your intention of fair use of said material.  More information about Fair Use can be found in this factsheet from
  2. Public Domain – these works are not copyrighted because it has expired, has not been renewed, or has been freely declared Public Domain by the creator.

Find Public Domain and other images labeled for reuse through this link resource.  

In the case of the creator/owner who wants to share with others, Creative Commons offers solutions: