Cosmic Times

Copyright Considerations

Copyright is always a consideration when putting together a project from works produced by other people. In producing your own Universe Mash-Up, you must be equally conscious of copyright. This discussion is not meant to be a comprehensive discussion of copyright law; rather, we present here the basics that should be considered when creating a Universe Mash-Up.

Public Domain

The easiest types of materials to use are those that are in the public domain. This means that they are free of copyright.

The materials that we have compiled into the Media Archive are all either part or the public domain, or specifically licensed to be used in this project. So any of the materials in our Media Archive can be used to produce a Universe Mash-Up without worrying about copyright. However, the names of the clips and any personalities appearing in the clips should appear in the credits of the Mash-Up.

Copyright Material

Anything that is not in the Public Domain has a copyright associated with it. In general, you will need permission from the creator of that material in order to use it in a Mash-Up. There are a couple of exceptions:

  • Self-created material

    You own the copyright on anything that you make yourself – such as filming a scene, taking a picture, or recording a voice-over. Anything that you use yourself can be used in your Universe Mash-up.

  • Creative Commons Licensing

    The creator of a piece can attach a Creative Commons license to his or her creations. The Creative Commons license gives other people permission to use and distribute their materials, but there may be some restrictions placed on their use. The resitrictions that can be associated with a Creative Commons license are:

    • Attribution – users must give credit to the original creator of the materials in a manner specificed by the license
    • Noncommercial – users may only use the materials for noncommucial purposes (i.e., they can't make money using the materials)
    • No Derivative Works – users can only use direct copies of the work, but may not change it in any way
    • Share-alike – users may only use/alter the materials if they release the resulting piece under the same Creative Commons license as the original work.

    For the purposes of making a Universe Mash-Up, any Creative Commons license that does not include the "No Derivative Works" restrictions should be fine. Make sure to make note of where all materials have been derived so that proper credit can be given.

  • Fair Use

    Some copyrighted materials can be used under the "fair use" clause of the copyright law. The idea of fair use is far larger than can be covered in a short web page about copyright considerations. It may be that you can use some copyrighted work in your own Universe Mash-Up project, if it falls under the fair use clause. In order for you to determine that, we invite you to visit the U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Web page or to checkout the Fair Use Checklist aimed at educators on the Columbia University Libraries website.

In the future we hope to share some of the Universe Mash-ups created by the community; however, we cannot share any that have copyrighted materials contained in them, unless the proper permissions have been obtained. Therefore, we strongly recommend sticking to materials that are in the public domain, self-created, or available under a Creative Commons license.


A service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA/GSFC