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Copyright at the Fund

What You Need to Know

Free content from the internet is most likely copyright-protected and subject to permission from the copyright owner.


  • Just because content is available for free on the internet does not mean it is free for you to reuse, copy or redistribution. 
  • Check Terms and Conditions of Use. 
  • Obtain Permission if your use is not allowed in the Terms and Conditions. 

Finding Terms of Use for Internet Content

Much of the content that is found on the internet is free for the individual to view. However, does this mean it is free to reuse?

Just because content is available for free on the internet, does not mean it is free for you to reuse, copy, or redistribute.

When you find material on the internet that you are interested in reusing, you should check the Terms of Use on the web site.

Often, these Terms of Use are located at the bottom of the page, and are sometimes called Terms and Conditions, Legal, or just Copyright. 

It is important to read through the terms, even if they sound legalistic. The section that addresses what you can and cannot do with the content of the website is the most important

If there is anything you want to do with the content that is not permitted by the Terms of Use, you need to obtain permission before going any further. See below for additional information on Obtaining Permission. 

Sometimes, the Terms of Use will let you know that a work is in the Public Domain, and that you are free to use the material without having to require permission. (See more information about the Public Domain under Copyright Basics). 

Additionally, content may be published with a Creative Commons (CC) License and can be used without formal permissions in most cases. More details on Creative Commons can be found below.

Creative Commons Licenses

Creative Commons (CC) Licenses work within the existing copyright framework to offer a way to simplify the permission and licensing process.

They are not meant as an alternative to copyright protection. When copyright owners offer their work for use under one of the six CC licenses, they expect you to abide by the terms of the particular licenses when using, copying or sharing their copyrighted work. 

Following are some definitions of the various elements of the CC Licenses and their corresponding icons. Further down are the 6 CC licenses combining these various elements. You may come across these licenses in the copyright section on websites.

Be sure to use the content only as permitted by the license. 

  BY = Attribution: You need to provide credit to the creator or copyright holder. This element is included in all 6 licenses. 

  SA = Share Alike: Modified versions or adaptations of a work must be shared under the same terms or equivalent licenses. 

  NC = NonCommercial: The work, including any derivatives, cannot be reused for any commercial purposes or to generate financial gain. 

  ND = No Derivatives: Adaptations or modified versions of the work are not allowed. Only original copies of the work can be displayed, distributed, copied, or shared. 

6 available Licenses: 

  CC BY (By Attribution): This attribution license is the least restrictive. It allows reuse and sharing of the work if attribution is provided. Commercial use and adaptations/derivatives are allowed. 

  CC BY-SA (Attribution-Share Alike): Requires attribution; and reuse for almost any purpose is permitted, included derivatives or adaptions which much be shared under the same terms as the original work. Commercial reuse is allowed. 

  CC BY-NC (Attribution-NonCommercial): With attribution to the creator, a work can be shared or used for noncommercial purposes only (i.e., not intended for generating profit.)

  CC BY-NC-SA (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike): Allows for noncommercial reuse of the material with attribution to the original creator; any adaptations or resulting works need to be shared or licensed under the same (or compatible) terms. 

  CC BY-ND (Attribution-No Derivatives): With attribution, an unadapted work can be copied or redistributed for any purpose. No modifications allowed. 

  CC BY-NC-ND (Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivatives): An unadapted work can be copied or shared for noncommercial purposes as long as attribution is provided; no modifications/adaptations to the work are allowed. This is the most restrictive of the six licenses. 


  • Only a copyright owner can assign a CC license to their work. 
  • Licensors (copyright owners) retain copyright to their work. 
  • Each license guarantees that a copyright owner gets credit for their work (Attribution / BY).
  • The licenses operate globally.

When using a work that is licensed under a CC license: 

  • Ensure you are using the work per the terms of the license.

  • It is important to clearly mark the work or portion of a work being used and include a link to the particular license, in addition to a link to the source of the item being reused.

  • If modifications have been made to the work, these should be noted too.

Link to CC FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions - Creative Commons

Obtaining Permission

If you want to use free content found on the internet and if the terms do not permit your use or you are not sure, do not use the content without obtaining written permission first. Written permission may be in the form of an email. 

How to obtain permission?

1) Who to contact? There may be a form to fill out or an email to send the request to. Make sure you contact the copyright owner.

2) What to say? Specify exactly what content you want to use, how and when you plan to use it, and whether it is for commercial use or not. 

3) What next? Be sure not to use the content before obtaining written permission from the copyright owner. 

4) Permission obtained! Remember to keep a copy of the permission for your files. And if your use changes from the permission request, ask the copyright owner again. 

If you need help with the process or if there is a request for you to sign an agreement, please contact 

Additional information: Websites: Five Ways to Stay Out of Trouble - Copyright Overview by Rich Stim - Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Center