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Digital Literacy for Anthropology 402 (Campbell): Copyright Literacy

Digital literacy guide for Anthropology 402 (Museum Science) for the Fall 2020 semester..

Course Assignment

ANTH 402 students will each build out their own digital exhibit. Unless curating the exhibit with their own original content, student curators will need to find and use digital content created by others. Understanding the basics of copyright, fair use, public domain, and Creative Commons is essential to selecting content for an exhibit.

What is the Public Domain?

The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it.

There are three common ways that works arrive in the public domain:

  • the copyright has expired,
  • the U.S. federal government created the work, or
  • the creator of the work dedicated it to the public domain.

Public Domain Explained by the U.S. Copyright Office

The public domain covers works not protected by copyright. Learn which works are in the public domain and how works become a part of it.

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons logo

Creative Commons a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. It does not replace copyright; instead it works alongside copyright.

Content creators may choose from one of six free, easy-to-use copyright licenses that provide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work — on conditions of your choice. Creative Commons licenses let you easily change your copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.” Conversely, the application of a Creative Commons license to a piece of intellectual property tells content consumers that they may use, share, and sometimes modify your content for free. Creative Commons licenses are frequently applied to photographs and artwork, videos, music and audio files, presentations, coursework, ebooks, blog posts, and wiki pages.

Description of Above Video: "When you take a photo, make music or shoot a video it’s yours, you own it. You also own the copyright. Which means you decide how it is used and who can use it and if it can be copied and shared (or remixed). Creative Commons is a set of licenses that enable lawful collaboration to do things like copy, share and remix. Creative Commons is a way to give permission to everyone to freely reuse your creative works. Hundreds of sites use these licenses: Wikipedia, YouTube,, Vimeo, Soundcloud, Flickr, Bandcamp, Boundless, Jamendo, TED, Musopen, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Free Music Archive, Freesound." (taken from the video description page on YouTube)

Recommended Digital Repositories to Explore

These digital repositories – often referred to as digital archives or archival gateways – pull together and make available digitized archival collections from many different libraries and archives. This type of system interoperability – sharing digitized collections among multiple repositories – is possible due to metadata standards like Dublin Core.

Includes Public Domain and/or Creative Commons Works

They include both types of freely usable digital assets, or one of these types. Your must review each item record to determine the type of license, and the license requirements if Creative Commons.

Includes Copyrighted and Public Domain Works

They include both copyrighted and public domain works. You must review each item record for its respective rights information.