This is a quick look at Copyright,
Use and Public Domain issues relevant to the project. For more in-depth information visit the U.S. Government Copyright site at
is the ownership of a work (such as words, photographs, music, art
work) by the creator of the work of the current copyright holder. In
the United States a work is protected at the moment of creation. As
the copyright holder you do not need to see or have the copyright symbol
appear (many owners choose to use it) to have a work protected.
- You cannot use a copyrighted work without the permission of the
- You must ask permission, generally in writing, and have the
copyright owner indicate permission or denial.
- The copyright holder may choose to ignore you, grant you
permission or deny you permission to use the work.
- Check the usage policy on the web page or make the effort to
When in doubt - do not use a copyrighted work without permission.
Concepts, Ideas, Formulas and The Merger Doctrine
A concept, idea or theory cannot be copyrighted. So you are free to state that the Earth is flat (or round) and
post it on your web site. You can't be sued for using that theory. But
if you use an artistically rendered copyrighted image created by another
person, you have just violated a copyright.
fact cannot be copyrighted - if you type or create an image
of the formula for sugar and post it on a web site, you have every right
to do so. If you use an artistically stylized way of rendering the
formula (that you found in a text book), then you are in violation.
Merger Doctrine - sometimes the idea and the way you can
express an idea are so close that they can't be separated. In this
picture of a formula there are limited ways to express this chemical
without using particular universally accepted symbol structures. The
symbol structures cannot be copyrighted. You are free to use the
conventional way of graphically expressing the formula.
The same is true for maps outlining the human anatomy and web page
navigation. You are not free, however, to copy a formula out of a page
of a copyrighted textbook or to use an illustrator's particular unique
style of rendering a formula.