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Atrium - Cabarrus Teammates LibGuide: Copyright

Guide for Atrium Cabarrus Staff to assist with researching


Copyright and Plagiarism!

Just because something is not under copyright does not mean you can use it without crediting the creator! If you use something without giving that person appropriate credit, this is PLAGIARISM!!

Plagiarism is not tolerated at Atrium Health!

Definition of Copyright


Per, the definition of copyright is as follows: 

Copyright: A form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for "original works of authorship", including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations. "Copyright" literally means the right to copy but has come to mean that body of exclusive rights granted by law to copyright owners for protection of their work. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, title, principle, or discovery. Similarly, names, titles, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, coloring, and listings of contents or ingredients are not subject to copyright. ( 

Below, please find a PDF of U.S. Code 17:

Public Domain

What is Public Domain?

Per, Public Domain is "the status of a literary work or an invention whose copyright or patent has expired or that never had such protection." (

This means that a work that is in Public Domain is available for use without permission from the creator/copyright holder.  For example, you may use the novel Pride and Prejudice  for a project without permission from Jane Austin (or her heirs) as it is in Pubic Domain.  HOWEVER, you should still credit the creators to avoid Plagiarism.  If you are writing a paper and use the following quote “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austin), you should still reference the work!

Some examples of works that are in Public Domain are:

  • Works in which the copyright has expired (ie, books, art, music)
  • Works that are placed into Public Domain by the creator
  • Works that are created by U.S. government (and their employees in the course of their employment)
  • Works that are not original (ie, facts, blank forms)

Just because something is publicly available does NOT mean it is in Public Domain!  Always check to see if it covered by copyright!

Fair Use rule


Fair use is the section in U.S. Code 17 Section 107 which puts limitations on exclusive copyright laws.  This is to "promote freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances".(  To determine if one is using something under "Fair Use", there is a four-factor analysis that should be applied.  Per the Statue, "In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:"

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

There is no set formula to determine if something is fair use (ie, "you can use less than 10% for your instruction and it is fair use" is not true!)  The courts will evaluate each claim on a case-by-case basis and the outcome will depend on each individual set of circumstances. 

Difference between Copyright and Plagiarism

Difference Between Copyright Violations and Plagiarism

Copyright is the legal method in which people can claim ownership of their creative works.  Copyright laws are found in U.S. Code 17 and cover a large variety of creative works including books, music, audio records, video records, websites, and architectural designs.  To use these items, one must get permission from the creator and may pay a fee for this.  For example, in a recent news story, Stephen King sold the movie rights a short story he wrote to a group of high school students for $1 (  The short story was his creation and he was able to sell the movie rights.  If the students would have created a movie without contacting Stephen King, they would have been guilty of copyright infringement and fined as much as $150,000.

Plagiarism is the act of using someone else's work or ideas without giving proper credit.  If I write a paper and I present all the information I found as my own, that is Plagiarism.  Even if I use information from the Federal Census (which is not subject to copyright) and I do not attribute it, that is Plagiarism.  To avoid plagiarism, one must properly cite and attribute all intellectual credit.  For example, I am writing a paper and state that the 2017 Population estimates for Concord, NC was 92,067.(  If I do not cite that I got this information from the Federal Government Census, this is PLAGIARISM.  Even though this information is in Public Domain (information from the Federal Government), I still need to cite the source!

FAQ of Copyright

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about Copyright:

  1. What works are protected by copyright?  The following types of works are protected by copyright (including, but not limited to):  literary works, music and lyrics, dramatic works and music, pantomimes and choreographic works, photographs, graphics, paintings and sculptural works, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, video games and computer software, audio recordings, architectural works.
  2. Who owns the copyright?  The author/creator, the author/creator's heirs (if the creator/author is deceased), any anyone who the creator/author has given or assigned their copyright to.  However, if a work is created jointly (2 authors of a book), they share the copyright ownership unless there is a contrary agreement.  Also, if one creates a work in the course of their employment, this is a "work for hire" agreement and the employer holds the copyright.  The copyright holder for this Libguide is Cabarrus College as it was created in the course of employment.
  3. How long does copyright last? For works created after 1977, copyright last the life of the creator + 70 years from the creator's death for their heirs.  If the work is "work for hire" created after 1977, copyright can last from 95-120 years from publication.
  4. Can a website be protected by copyright? Yes.  If you want to use something that is on a website, you must respect all copyright laws!
  5. I found something on the internet - Can I use it without worrying about copyright? NO.  Things on the Internet (including websites, blogs, videos, and documents) can be and often are protected by copyright.  Always cite your source and if need be, ask for permission!
  6. There is no copyright symbol (©);  I can use it, right?  NO!  Just because there is no copyright symbol does not mean that the work is not protected by copyright.  When a work is made into a tangible form (ie, printed, recorded), it is protected by copyright.  Often, works protected by copyright do not have the symbol.
  7. What are some things that are not protected by copyright? Items that are not protected by copyright include works in public domain, titles, names, short phrases, facts, processes and systems (such as the system used in the library to catalog books), Federal government works (such as the tax code), and ideas that are not fixed in a tangible form (if you have an idea on the best painting ever, but you do not create that painting, that idea is not protected by copyright).
  8. What are some examples of items that are not subject to copyright.  Some examples include: media (books, art, music)  that were created before 1922 (the works of Shakespeare, works of Jane Austin, Monet painting etc), Federal Government works (Statistical Data, Federal Documents, etc.),and information that is commonly known and has no original authorship such as known facts (such as 0°C is freezing for water), height and weight charts, telephone directories, calendar (but the artwork in a calendar can be subject to copyright), and blank forms.
  9. I just saw a really great video explaining how to work a Calculus Problem.  Since it is a process, it is not subject to copyright and I can just use the entire video without contacting the creators, right?  WRONG!  Even though the process itself (the working the Calculus Problem) is not subject to copyright, the creative process of the video and way the information is expressed to the audience is protected by copyright!
  10. I found a really great photograph of a Monet painting.  I can use this picture as Monet paintings are Public Domain, right? No!  Even though the Monet painting is in Public Domain, the photograph is protected by copyright and you would need to contact the creator of the photograph.

Copyright Law

United States Copyright law governs the fair use of copying materials for research.  Please refer to the U.S. Copyright website for more information regarding the rules and regulations regarding copyright.  You can also refer to Frequently Asked Questions about Copyright

Copyright protects various types of works, including literary works, musical works, dramatic works, pictures, graphs, sound recordings and audiovisual works.  This is NOT a comprehensive list.  Copyright laws are defined in the U.S. Code, Title 17 Chapter 1.  For a more user friendly breakdown of the U.S. Code, you can view the information on Cornell Law School website.

Plagiarism Definition

Plagiarism is derived from the Latin term plagiarius which means kidnapper.  If you use someone's work without proper credit (citation), you are "kidnapping" their work.  Plagiarism is not tolerated in the academic or professional field.

Plagiarism is "an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author's work as one's own, as by not crediting the original author" (  To avoid plagiarism, every direct quotation must be identified by quotation marks or appropriate indentation.  Direct quotations and paraphrasing must be cited properly according to the accepted formation, such as APA.  Some examples of plagiarism include:

  • Copying word for word (directly quoting) from oral, printed or electronic sources without proper attribution.
  • Paraphrasing without proper attribution (presenting in your own words another person's written words or ideas as if they were your own).
  • Incorporating into your work graphs, drawings, photographs, diagrams, tables, spreadsheets, or other non-textual material from other sources with out proper credit.
  • Reusing work one previously created without proper citation (Self-Plagiarism).

This is not an exclusive list! For more information about Plagiarism, please refer to the website,