Using copyrighted music, photography or video footage without a license or permission exposes Cornell University – and you – to financial liability for copyright infringement.

If you manage websites or social media platforms in your volunteer role, you are responsible for ensuring that all content is copyright compliant. This includes the content of any volunteer group that you may lead.


The use of copyrighted material in multimedia created by volunteer groups for informational or promotional purposes generally requires appropriate permission and often the payment of fees for at least one, and typically two, separate licenses. This includes, but is not limited to, any music, audio, video, photo, illustration, graphic and other files used in multimedia production. Identifying the source of such files may also be required.

Do not assume you are able to use anything “posted to the internet.” It is your responsibility to obtain permissions or otherwise verify the assets are free to use.

Fair use

Principles of fair use protect reasonable uses of materials in the context of teaching, scholarship, and research. However, outside of these settings, fair use has limited application. More information is available through the Cornell University Library Copyright Information Center.

Recommendation & resources

We recommend only using digital media that is in the public domain, has been purchased for use with the appropriate licenses or was originally created by Cornell University. Helpful resources and other information can be found on the Cornell Brand website or the Cornell University Library Copyright Information Center.