Copyright Laws

June 11, 2018

BY: Kendall Hunt

Copyright is often a point of confusion authors encounter. With so many requirements and laws, it’s a tricky matter knowing how copyright affects you as an author of a new text. How does it apply if you own the source material? Your book is for educational purposes; does that permit free use of original works?

What does general copyright law entail?

Most people know that copyright doesn't protect facts, or what's generally referred to as common knowledge. What many don't know is that it doesn't protect ideas, either. Copyright laws apply to the expression of ideas. In other words, while copyright would have protected Da Vinci's unique expression of the famed Mona Lisa smile, it wouldn't have protected the physical smile itself. For the same reason, it's not a copyright faux pas to state without permission that George Washington was the first US president or that the earth revolves around the sun. However, to use or mimic an author's expression of these facts, a book, documentary, etc.without permission would be a violation of copyright law. This expression is the author's intellectual property, and it has the same legal status as physical property. Even if you own the source, you still need to ask for permission before using it in your publication. Remember, you bought that copy of the work, not the rights to it.

However, people are using Da Vinci’s art in books, PowerPoints, etc. across the country without permission. The jurisdiction of copyright law doesn’t cover 1923 or any time prior to that. Anything created before 1923 is considered Public Domain, with a few considerations. If something was created before 1923, but it was published/publicly released after, it may not be Public Domain. If Da Vinci’s descendants waited until today to publicly release the Mona Lisa, chances are that it wouldn’t be Public Domain, in spite of its age. In cases like that, you need to seek permission from the family or museum where the work is kept before you used it. The exception is U.S. government publications. These are typically all in the Public Domain, regardless of when they were written.

What about Fair Use?

Fair Use, essentially, limits the copyright owner’s exclusive rights to their work, allowing others to use it sparingly. If you’re using material from a journal, magazine, website or newspaper article, you need to keep your use to 5% or less of the source article’s total word count. If it’s a book (anything 32 pages or more), then use cannot exceed 5% of the total and cannot go beyond 250 words. If you’re pulling multiple excerpts from a source, then those excerpts must add up to the 5% and/or 250-word rule, respectively. Fair Use never applies to poetry and song lyrics. With either of these, you’ll need to contact the writer to obtain permission, no matter how much or how little you’re using.

That said, there are certain mediums/sources that can never be used in Kendall Hunt textbooks:


Copyleft Material

Cover Images of Famous People

Creative Commons Articles

Creative Commons Photos

Facebook Materials


Google Images/Maps

GNU Licensed Material

Internet Forums

Instagram Posts

Message Boards

Pinterest Items


Twitter Feeds

Wikimedia Material

Wikipedia Material

YouTube Videos (not author created)


Provided you obtain appropriate permission, you are free to use the following in your text (items with asterisks don’t require permission if they’re Public Domain):


3rd Party Material in any other publication


Animated Works

Architectural Works

*Art Images

Author’s Own Published Work


Book Cover Images




Choreographic Works

Clip Art


Contributed Images

Contributed Writing

Definitions (okay if no more than 3 or 4 per word and no phonetics are used)





Government Officials Acting Outside of their Official Duties (college commencement address, interview or campaign speech)




Internet Downloads

Journal Articles

Literary Works

Logos (can use name with trademark symbol in its place)

Magazine Articles



Mission Statements

Motion Picture Stills and Clips (very expensive)

Music, Lyrics or Scores (even one line)

National Science Foundation

News Content

Newspaper Articles


Personal Correspondence


Parent or Legal Guardian of a Minor (for work created by the minor)


Plays (very expensive)

Poetry and Prose (even one line)


Quotes on Covers (implies endorsement)





State Standards

Student Materials

Tables and Data  (Cumulative & Originality)

Thesis Papers



University Logos

University Owned Works


Vision Statements


Finally, the following don’t require any form of permission prior to use:

Advertising Slogans or Jingles, such as “Just Do It” as long as it is not used in a negative way.

Government Officials acting within their official duties (inaugural addresses, congressional hearings, proceedings, etc…)

Kendall Hunt owned text/images/drawings, etc….


General Rules:

  • No blogs, message boards, forums, etc….
  • Can’t be used in a negative way
  • People need to be blurred out
  • Typically one screenshot is just an example.  Multiple uses are more in-depth and are no longer examples.

Software Screenshots:

  • Microsoft – can’t be more than 10% of the book.
  • Website Screenshots:
  • Yahoo and Google are okay
  • Newspapers – keep the text and photos small so people are not recognizable and only one.            


U.S. Federal Government Material (NASA, USGS, FEMA, NOAA, CIA, CDC, Etc…)

Work for Hire text/images/drawings, etc….

XRays – machine generated with nothing else added, patient should not be identified


As you work on your new text, following this general rule is always a safe bet: if you didn’t create the work, ask for permission before using it. Ultimately, copyright law allows for the exchange of ideas while still protecting rights regarding intellectual property. It’s when creative minds draw upon each other that the purest form of learning is achieved, benefiting professor, student, even society. So please—draw upon the work of other minds, with their permission. Allow them to fortify your text, and provide them the respect they deserve in return.

If you have any other questions regarding copyright issues, please contact Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.