The Task Force for Freedom and Responsibility on the Internet released "The Netsurfer's Simple Guide To Copyright" which distills U.S. copyright law into five maxims:
- If you didn't create a written work, piece of art, photograph or music, or obtain distribution rights to it, you don't own it.
- If you don't own it, you can't copy it or distribute it to others whether you make money from it or not.
- The author or owner of a document must explicitly relinquish its rights to place a work in the "public domain" and thereby make copying/distribution without specific authorization permissible.
- "Fair use" allows you to copy small portions of a work you don't own without permission, but only for criticism, education, news reporting and the like. If it's unpublished, even those uses may not qualify as fair use. If it's trade secrets, fair use does not apply.
- When in doubt, ask the creator or owner for permission to use their work.
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That's the bad news.
The good news is that if your purpose is non-profit, educational or conservation-oriented, and if you ask, we'll probably say yes.