Assume that EVERYTHING is. Even handwritten letters are covered by copyright law and the rights belong to the writer of that letter. Everything on the World Wide Web is copyright protected, even if no copyright statement is included.
The two factors written into the law are that the work has a creator (author, artist, photographer, sculptor, etc.) and that the work is fixed in a tangible form (print, artwork, visual images, AND electronic formats, etc.).
The copyright owner has the right to control all reproduction of their work, all distribution of their work, all derivative works (such as a screenplay from a novel) and all public performance and display of their work.
Materials published before 1922 are in the public domain. Later materials will not enter public domain until the year 2018. Everything else has lengthy coverage which has fluctuated over the years due to changes in the law. The current coverage is the life of the author plus 70 years. Even anonymous works are covered for 95-120 years from their creation.
You can make copies of small portions (a book chapter, a single article, a single poem, etc.) in order to do research and study.
You cannot insert copies of other people's works into your own papers and turn them in. Especially illustrations! You may quote and cite small portions of other people's works, but an illustration is the whole work. If you simply must have an illustration created by someone else, obtain permission from the copyright holder. This applies to graphics on the World Wide Web, as well as, photographs, etc.
The courts use four factors to determine this on a case by case basis. The factors are:
If you need further explanation of these factors, contact your friendly librarian or go to the
United States Copyright Office
Disclaimer: The information on this page is not provided as legal advice. I am a librarian, not a lawyer or a judge. Use this information as general guidelines.
Just because what you do is educational does not mean that you have freedom to do whatever you please. Just because you are not making a profit does not mean you can do whatever you please.