Intellectual Property

      The general term “Intellectual Property” covers four main types of protection: Copyright, trademark, patents, and trade secrets. In a journalism setting, copyright is the type of protection most likely to be encountered. Broadly speaking, copyright protects “writings” by “authors,” although both these terms are applied very broadly. Copyright protection extends not only to literary and musical works, but also pictorial, graphic and audiovisual works as well.

      In practice, this means that not only everything you create will have attached copyright protections, but also almost everything you want to use (that you didn’t create yourself) will have copyright protection. Don’t assume there is no copyright just because you don’t see a notice. If you find a work protected by copyright you want to use, there are four main ways to do so legally: creative commons, public domain, permission, and fair use.

  • Creative commons works are those where the copyright holders have given a general license for anyone to use a work. Both Google and Flickr have an ability to search for these images specifically.
  • Works in the public domain are those where the copyright has actually expired. Generally speaking, these will be older works created before 1923.
  • If you have permission, either written or verbal to use a work in a specific context, you are of course also free to use that work. Getting permission from a creator is also a general courtesy that you may want to consider even if you think you may be able to use the work another way.
  • In certain circumstances, covered in depth below, you may be able to use a work protected by copyright under a fair use argument.

Useful Resources

  • Copyright Basics
  • Copyright Overview
  • Creative Commons Search Engine
  • Information in this guide is based on general principles of law and is intended for information purposes only; we make no claim as to the comprehensiveness or accuracy of the information. It is not offered for the purpose of providing individualized legal advice. Use of this guide does not create an attorney-client or any other relationship between the user and Carolina Week, the School of Media and Journalism or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.