Copyright law protects the owner of an original work against the unauthorized use of his work by others. The work of student journalists, photographers and artists — just like any other author — is protected from copyright infringement.

The most common issue for student media, however, is not so much protecting their work from use by someone else as it is determining whether they can use material produced by others in their publications or programs.

For example, is it permissible to reproduce a popular cartoon character or reprint the words of a poem in a student yearbook? Is it okay to download photos from the Internet to illustrate a story in the student newspaper? Can you run clips from a music video on a student-produced television program?

Unfortunately, the answers to such questions can be more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no.”