Can I repost items I find on the web without having to worry about copyright? Isn’t all of that stuff in the public domain? Many people mistakenly assume that everything posted on the Internet is in the public domain. It is vital for you to know that current copyright law gives legal protection to nearly all text, images, audiovisual recordings, and other materials that are posted on the Internet, even if the original works do not include any statement about copyright. You may post such materials on your websites only if:

  • You are the copyright owner of the material, or
  • The copyright owner of the material grants permission, or
  • Is the material in the public domain, or
  • The use of the material is a “fair use” under the law, or
  • The material falls within another statutory exception.

Fair use plays a key role in the online world; just as it has done with forms of traditional media. Fair use is a legal doctrine that allows the public to make limited use of copyrighted works without permission. Do not assume that a nonprofit, educational use or giving credit for the source of the work, or because you are merely building a family or personal website creates an inherent fair use. Limiting the amount of material you post on your website, and restricting access to the material are creative ways of strengthening your claim of fair use. Obtaining permission from the copyright owner is an important option when posting materials on the World Wide Web.