Copyright laws protect authors, publishers, musicians, artists and others from having their work stolen or misused. Copying a song, a book or an image without permission is not legal. However, there are exceptions, which brings us to fair use.
Fair use exceptions were designed with education in mind. Fair use says that as a researcher or educator you can copy sources for your own use or use in class when used for educational purposes--with limits.
This brief explanation of length of copyright & publications can help you determine if an author's work might be out of copyright. Works that are out of copyright can be freely used and are frequently available online.
Copyright and fair use are complicated. You can get started with our handy What You Can Do chart.
The information in this guide is general information and does not constitute legal advice.