Copyright: can I use music, pictures, etc. in my presentations?
It's easy to drag and drop pictures, graphics, sounds and movies from the web or your CD collection right into your PowerPoint presentations.
But is it a good idea? Maybe not. If you left your car out in the driveway with the keys in it, you'd be displeased if I came along and took it for a ride just because it was there and I could. The people who write music, take photos and create the graphics you'd like to use in your presentations feel the same way about their intellectual property as you do about your physical property. It's not nice to use somebody else's stuff without their permission.
If looking out for their self-interest doesn't interest you, consider your own. If Disney catches you using Mickey in your shows, they'll bury you so deep in lawyers you wont be able to see the sky for all the suits. Getting caught with your hand in somebody eles's copyright cookie jar can be expensive.
Here are some places to find out more about copyright matters, permissions and more.
Educators, public broadcasting and some other groups have a different set of guidlines than commercial and home users. Learn more about the Fair Use Doctrine here.
The Harry Fox Agency can help negotiate music usage rights.
Songfile.com is a kind of express licensing agency if you'll be manufacturing/distributing fewer than 2500 units.
This page at The Music Publisher's Association (MPA) has lots of information about obtaining music usage rights, and links to many other copyright-related sites.
Databases here will help you locate the owner/publisher of the music you want to use.
The Picture Archive Council of America has The Paca Copyright Commandments
A good way to investigate photography usage rates and practices is to search Google on "stock photo" and visit some of the sites that come up in response to your search.
The Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) can help you locate an author and/or get permission to use a written work.