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Copyright and Legal Media at Penn State

Respect for the intellectual property and creative work of others is essential to Penn State’s mission. As a strong proponent of copyright and intellectual property rights, the University has a moral and legal obligation to respond to reports of violations.

While technology makes it easy to access many different kinds of media—movies, photos, journals, and music—this ease of access can sometimes result in people using materials without fully understanding the associated rights and responsibilities.

As a student, faculty, or staff member, it’s vital you understand and follow Penn State’s copyright and intellectual property policies by only downloading items that you’ve acquired legally and not sharing copyrighted materials unless you have permission.

What you should know


A work, in whatever medium, is protected by copyright law unless it has been placed in the public domain. Owners of copyrights hold exclusive right to the reproduction and distribution of their work. Unauthorized use and distribution of copyrighted works is illegal and deprives artists and publishers a fair return on their work.


If you use copyrighted materials such as text, photographs, images, videos, or audio files, you must have permission from the copyright holder. Always ask if you would like to use information or images you find on the web—when in doubt, get written permission.


If you are found downloading or distributing copyrighted media without permission you could lose access to Penn State networks, harm your good standing at Penn State, and risk losing future employment opportunities.You could also face a lawsuit from such agencies as the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America. For the most serious offenses, criminal charges can also result.

Your rights

As a Penn State student, faculty, or staff member, you have the right to protection from the misuse of your creative and intellectual property. Like all creators and publishers, you have the right to acknowledgment and to determine the form, manner, and terms of the reproduction and distribution of your work.

For questions regarding intellectual property, patents, and licensing, contact Penn State’s Office of Technology Management.

Reporting violations

To report possible copyright infringement, email


The following resources can help you learn more about copyright, plagiarism, fair use, and other topics:

Legal Media Sources

It’s easy to find legal media sources. Use the links below to find options that work for you.

University Contacts

The following departments are available to answer your questions about copyright and appropriate uses of digital media:

Copyright Clearance Office

Hostetter Business Services Building
University Park, PA 16802

Office of Information Security

24 Technology Support Building
University Park, PA 16802

Office of Technology Management

113 Technology Center Building
University Park, PA 16802

Office of Licensing Programs

108 Procurement Services Building
University Park, PA 16802

Office of Strategic Communications

309 Old Main
University Park, PA 16802

Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to questions about copyright and legal media at Penn State.