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The term "public domain" encompasses materials for which:
Public domain is different than "publicly accessible" or "free online."
Principles of fair use allow individuals to make single copies of copyrighted works for their own research and study or to use copyrighted material in the classroom for presentations or assignments. For example, some faculty may place copies of an article on library reserve for students to read.
These principles also allow faculty to make multiple copies of copyrighted material for use in classroom instruction. For example, instructors may copy a rubric to help students evaluate each other's work.
However, if that same material were placed on a website, used in a newsletter, or mounted to social media, permission from the copyright holder would be required. Without permission, such actions are infringements and potentially subject to civil and criminal charges.
Purpose and character of the use
Nature of copyrighted work
Amount and substantiality of portion used
Effect of the use on the potential market for the copyrighted work
These sites outline tools and techniques for identifying and contacting copyright owners.
A short film by Eric Faden, using short disney clips that fall under the category of fair use (remember, they can use short amounts of the film without express permission because of fair use).