Skip to Main Content PCC Library Logo

Copyright: Introduction

Why Should You Care About Copyright?

As a Pasadena City College student, you prepare papers, projects, presentations, and other assignments that require you to consult and draw on works created by others. These works may be protected by copyright, the federal law that governs how original works may be copied, modified, distributed and shared.

Is it okay to copy / share / scan / change / play / display a copyrighted work? It depends. Using someone else's copyrighted material without permission could constitute copyright infringement, an illegal and unethical act that violates United States law.

To comply with copyright law and with standards for ethical conduct, you need to do one of three things:

  • Determine that your use qualifies for one of the exceptions to the copyright holder's rights, such as Fair Use OR

How do you know what approach to take in your particular situation? That's what this guide is designed to help with.  Here you will find some brief explanations of key copyright concepts as well as resources for learning more.


Copyright Basics: Tips for Students

Research Papers

Q: I'm writing a research paper. Can I quote from books and articles without worrying about copyright infringement?

A: Yes! Quoting from or paraphrasing articles and books in your research papers is an essential element of academic writing. It's not just acceptable; it's expected. As long as you always cite your sources (meaning you don't take credit for someone else's ideas or words), you can rest assured that you're not committing plagiarism or copyright infringement.


Q: What if I create a PowerPoint presentation for a class? What are the copyright considerations? 

A: If your presentation only includes text (with proper citations) and no images, music or videos, you probably don't need to worry about copyright infringement.

If you're using images, things get a bit more complicated. Whenever possible, we recommend finding freely usable images that are not protected by copyright. 

Using copyrighted images, music, or video is often fine too, especially if you're only presenting in front of your classmates and instructor and not posting your presentation online. Visit our Fair Use page to make sure your use meets the criteria listed there.

In additon, follow these guidelines when using copyrighted material in a presentation: 

  • DO use short clips of music or videos rather than whole songs or movies
  • DO use text, images, video, and music that you create yourself
  • DON'T post your presentation online unless you remove all copyright-protected material
  • DON'T use illegal download procedures to obtain music, images, or videos for your presentation


This guide borrows liberally from a great Copyright LibGuide by Gail Clement, Scholarly Communication Librarian and Associate Professor at Texas A&M University. She graciously allowed us to reuse parts of her guide here.


While we've made every effort to make sure this Copyright LibGuide is helpful and accurate, The PCC Library cannot provide legal advice. We make no warranties regarding the information provided and disclaim liabilities for damages resulting from its use.