Intellectual Property Crash Course

This six episode miniseries by Crash Course producer Stan Muller explores the complex and persistent issue of intellectual property. This series of educational videos discusses the three major elements of intellectual property: copyright, patents, and trademarks. You can access the entire playlist here or watch the individual videos below:

Crash Course Intellectual Property  #1: Introduction to Intellectual Property

Crash Course Intellectual Property #2: Copyright Basics

Crash Course Intellectual Property #3: Copyright, Exceptions, and Fair Use 

Crash Course Intellectual Property #4: Patents, Novelty, and Trolls

Crash Course Intellectual Property #5: Trademarks and Avoiding Consumer Confusion

Crash Course Intellectual Property #6: International IP Law

Permission Letter Templates

Using Student Work Authorization Form – Use this form if you would like to request permission to use electronic or physical copies of student work.

Model Permission Letters – This site, hosted by Columbia University, has sample permission letters for using copyrighted material in a new work, in a course management system, or online.

Copyright FAQs

Looking for a quick answer to a specific question? The Scholarly Communication and Copyright Office’s Frequently Asked Questions might have the answer. If not, please contact us at

Fair Use | Requesting Permission | File Sharing | Dissertations/Theses

Fair Use

What is fair use?
Fair use is the term used for the limited exception to the exclusive rights granted to an author or creator by copyright law. The fair use doctrine allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the rights holder for certain activities such as research, instruction, criticism, commentary and news reporting.

How do I know if my use of copyrighted material is fair use?
There are several factors that will weigh in favor of fair use, but it is helpful to use a checklist to help you determine if your use is fair or not.

George Mason University Fair Use Checklist
Fair Use Evaluator

Read moreCopyright FAQs

Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Enacted in 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was the legislative response to U.S. implementation of the World Intellectual Property (WIPO) copyright treaty (The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998: U.S. Copyright Office Summary. 1998). Passage of this and similar legislation resulted largely in the Internet as we know it today–a compromise between copyright holders, who seek to protect their content from rampant reproduction and distribution via the Web, and Internet Service Providers (ISP), who want limited liability for content users’ indiscriminate infringement activities on their networks. At a local level, provisions in the DMCA significantly affect campus file sharing behavior at George Mason University.

Section 512(c) of the DMCA specifically limits the liability of the University, as the ISP for our community, for copyright infringements made by students, faculty, and staff. This protection is granted as long as the University:

  • has no knowledge of the infringing activity,
  • does not receive a financial benefit directly connected to infringing activity over which it has control,
  • removes or blocks access to material, upon receipt of a notice claiming copyright infringement,
  • has a written copyright policy, and
  • has a designated agent, registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, to whom DMCA notices may be sent.

Read moreDigital Millennium Copyright Act

File Sharing

File sharing protocols have become a common method for sharing all types of content, both legally owned and unlawfully acquired, among and between computer users. With the advent of Napster in 1999, these protocols have grown exponentially. Torrent and Gnutella sites, such as Frostwire and Ares, facilitate distribution of content, often without permission from the owner of that content. This causes tension between the copyright owner, who wants to maintain control over his/her works, and individuals who want to use, enjoy, share, and build on these works.

Users must be aware of the fact that access to content on the Web is not equivalent to owning that content. You can watch, listen to, and read online content 24/7. But you may not have the right to download the material and/or use it the way you would like, unless you make payment to or have permission from the copyright owner. A Creative Commons license explicitly stipulates how users may use the content. Otherwise, assume that all content on the Web is owned by someone, even if it isn’t marked with a copyright symbol.

Industry Slant

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is a trade organization representing software companies and their hardware partners.
BSA on Internet Piracy
BSA on Software Licensing

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) serves as a “voice and advocate” for its members, the six major motion picture studios, and their interests in the motion picture, home video, and television industries.
Why the MPAA Cares About Copyright
Types of Content Theft

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is a trade organization for the major music companies who are their members. RIAA members record, manufacture, and distribute 85% of “legitimate recorded music” in the United States.
RIAA on Piracy