Mr. Sicilia's Guide to Copyright and Fair Use

With all of the information at our finger tips in today's world it can be difficult to know what information is ok to use or reuse for personal purposes like personal webpages or school projects and reports. Students growing up in this digital age often have the technical capability to download, copy, and manipulate images but may not know that do so is often unethical and can even be illegal. To help students and parents understand what the expectations are for using copyrighted material for this class (or any other use really) I have created this quick guide to reference anytime you have a questions about what is and is not ok to use.

Copy and Paste

Many students are familiar with the "copy and paste" functions of a computer, but it is almost never OK to copy and past someone elses words. If you are typing a report it is sometimes useful to quote an author, but you must be careful of how you do this. You should be able to read the words and retype them yourself, as a rule try not to copy and paste even if it is for use of a quote. You must always give credit to the source of your quote, but most students do not realize that you must also give credit to sources that you paraphrase, or just get a general idea from, even if you are not using their exact words.


The easiest way to find images online is usually to do an images search with Google, or another search engine like it. Students (and even myself) often find an image, and copy and paste it to a document, or slideshow presentation. This is sometimes alright to do, but it depends on how you plan to use your image. If the project you are using the image for is for school only, and is limited to the view of selected people, then mearly citing the owner or source of the image will suffice. But if you are posting to the internet, on a webpage, or uploading a slideshow presentation or document, you must only use images from "free" websites, where the images are free for anyone to use without fear of copyright infingement. Many sites require you to pay for images, you want to avoid these sites unless you can afford to pay for the pictures you want.

"Open" Sites

Sites often have licenses called "creative commons licenses." Wikispaces, for example has such a license which dictates how the content of the various webpages on this site can be used, and what content can be used on them. Below are links to wikispaces license page, as well as its "open content" policy,


There are several ways to cite your sources depending on the medium you are using (print books, magazines, internet websites) and what you using the information for. There are several general formats as well, which format you use usually depends on the preference of your school. Here we use the MLA format which we will go over in more detail in class. The basic thing to remember when citing a source is that you must give credit to the author or authors, the title of the source (book or webpage), the publisher of the source (publishing company or website, which is the overall site as opposed to the individual page), location of the publisher or website (if available), and the date of publication. If you cannot find all (or nearly all) of these things then you should seriously question whether the source you are using is very reliable.

Below is a slideshow persentation (not created by me) that helps illustrate some of these points.