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Copyright for Undergraduates


VCU Libraries provides faculty, researchers, and students with informative resources that can help guide them in the responsible use of copyrighted works and encourage them to exercise their fair use rights. However, we do not provide legal advice. For legal advice, please consult the Office of University Counsel. 

How Does Copyright Affect You?

We live in an information society. Information has value, and it makes a big impact on our economy and our culture. The amount of information and content available online grows every day, and sharing it is easier than ever. The Internet is full of knowledge and creative works that are shared by their creators and used by millions of others, and an increasing amount of research now takes place online.

Much of the content you find online is protected by copyright. In fact, you interact with copyright every day—the music you listen to, the books you read, the videos you watch online. All of these things are copyrighted, and copyright affects how you are able to use and share them. Copyright is a type of intellectual property, and intellectual property does not work quite the same way as physical property. For example, if you own a car, no one else can use it unless you grant them permission, and you don't have to grant permission to anyone. However, there are circumstances where intellectual property can be used without permission of the owner. Knowing when and how you can use intellectual property (and when and how you can't) helps you make the most of the vast amount of knowledge available to you and steer clear of legal troubles.

You are also an owner of many copyrights. The photos you take with your phone, papers you write for class, sometimes even the text messages you send: all of these can receive copyright protection. As a copyright owner, you can take steps to protect your copyrighted works or to share your copyrighted works with others.