Prior to using any material that may be copyrighted by someone else in a presentation or instruction, an evaluation should be made to decide if the use is an appropriate use or an infringement.

Appropriate uses might include:

  • use of materials where permission has been granted
  • fair use
  • use of materials as allowed by a license for software or other works
  • use of materials licensed through a fee based permissions service

Examples of appropriate uses of copyrighted materials

  • A professional public speaker has been asked to give a motivational address to an organization at an annual meeting.
  • Within his address he plans to include some material from other sources, including a poem, a novel, a movie, a biography, a history of the region the organization is in, the companyís annual report and a video documentary about the companyís industry, all of which, of course, are copyrighted by virtue of having at least some amount of originality.
  • So long as the material used is pertinent to the address, each of the sources may be a legitimate resource under fair use and without permission being necessary.
  • The more original the work, the harder it is to justify fair use. From easiest to justify to hardest based simply on originality, our speakerís sources might be ordered as follows:
    • the annual report - mostly facts and figures, but some amount of originality in the description of the last year that is being provided to the shareholders.
    • the history of the region - history is generally fact based.
    • text from the video documentary - again, mostly relying on factual material. (Use of footage from the actual video without permission may be much to justify)
    • the biography - again historical fact based, but most biographies are telling a story and, thus, have a lot of original material incorporated.
    • the novel - a lot of originality along with some factual basis.
    • text from the movie - would rank basically the same as the movie (Again, use of footage from the movie would be hard to justify without having permission)
    • the poem - most poetry is almost purely original in nature.
  • Two examples of appropriate use of copyrighted material were discussed on an earlier page. I obtained permission from Nuclear News to use an article from the magazine. Subsequently, as I was developing this web-site, I learned that the company already had permission for internal use of that article, and any other Nuclear News articles, through a license with the Copyright Clearance Center.
  • An instructor is assigned the task of writing a lesson plan and system training manual for a new air compressor that is being installed in the plant. The references that he has available are a technical manual, the vendorís brochure for their air compressors, a video which shows the operation of the compressor, and the vendorís website.
  • All of this material from the vendor is copyrighted, again, by virtue of containing original material fixed in tangible form.
  • However, the vendor is in the business of selling air compressors. They are not making money on the limited monopoly that copyright grants for copyrighted works.
  • As well, the material is all primarily factual based.  The amount of original text that clothes the factual material is going to be minimal.
  • In this instance, just about anything that you want to use will fall into the realm of fair use. 
  • Music from Network Music (if you have a license with them) can be combined with public domain photos from U.S. government websites in a presentation program such as PowerPoint for infringement free presentation that can be used for an introductory setting or for breaks.
Updated Sunday, 11. October 2009, 14:25
by Michael Goad (

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