“Copyright-Safe” Checklist

Use this checklist when creating material for electronic or print publication. Be “copyright safe”!

Text, tables, illustrations, video footage, and audio segments from the works of others, regardless of the source, are protected by copyright and may not be reproduced unless the copyright owner explicitly grants permission. If you wish to reproduce and/or adapt any portion of materials from other sources in your publication, videotape, website, or other media-except for brief sections of text treated as quotations-you must obtain permission from the copyright owner to protect against copyright infringement claims.

Note that ideas or information from other sources may be used without obtaining permission, provided that you express that information in your own words and images. When you use information developed by others, professional ethics dictate that you give credit by citing the source (unless the information is common knowledge).

This checklist will help you determine whether written permission, a credit statement, or both are required for your project:

Q1. Is the title or any of the text copied directly from another source?

  • NO – Go to Question 2.
  • YES – Is the copied material longer than two paragraphs, or is it more than 10 percent of a single copyrighted work?
    • NO – Place the materials in quotes and acknowledge the source with a standard reference citation.
    • YES – Follow the instructions below (“How to obtain written permission . . . “). Then go to Q2.

Q2. Is any drawing, photo, video footage, audio segment, HTML code, or other element of content copied wholly or in part from another source?

  • NO – No permission is required. Go to Question 3.
  • YES – Follow the instructions below (“How to obtain written permission . . . “).” Then go to Q3.

Q3. Are any unique concepts, ideas, or information drawn from another specific, identifiable source?

  • NO – No further action is required.
  • YES – Credit the source either with a standard reference citation (footnote or endnote) or with a general credit statement citing the original author, title of the work, and name of the publisher.

How to obtain written permission to reproduce copyrighted materials

To request permission, write to the copyright owner or publisher indicating exactly what material you wish to reproduce, how it will be used, the publication or other work in which it will be incorporated, the purpose, and whether the publication or work will be offered free or for sale. Ask for written permission as follows:

  • If you wish to copy material from a work that the publisher offers for free (for example, a publication distributed without charge by a state or quasi-government agency), you may request and obtain permission by e-mail.
  • If you wish to copy material from a work that the publisher sells, obtain a signed letter on paper from the copyright holder granting permission to reproduce the material. An easy way to do this is to use our Form Letter for Permission Requests.

Questions? Consult the Copyright and Libel Primer for Web and Print Publishers.

The copyright checklist was adapted with permission from the Copyright Checklist and Assignment for MSU Extension Service Authors, Office of Agricultural Communications, Mississippi State University, 2004.