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Tips and Tricks from Agricultural Communications Services

A word about copyright

Copyright can be a complicated topic. As educators, we have the right to use some copyrighted materials in our Extension efforts. However, those rights can be difficult to understand. This blog post will try to explain copyright laws, public domain, fair use and creative commons, as well as answer some of the most common question educators have.

Please be aware, this post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Although most copyright holders do not seek the maximum reparations for an incidental infraction, copyright violations carry steep penalties. Please be careful.

What is copyright?

Copyright is the right to own and control the tangible expression of an idea. Painters, authors, photographers and other creators can keep others from selling or sharing their creative works.

In order to be protected by copyright, a work must be:

  • Original: A work must be created independently and not copied.
  • Creative: There must be some minimal degree of creativity involved in making the work.
  • A work of authorship: This includes literary, musical, dramatic, choreographic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, audiovisual and architectural works.
  • Fixed: The work must be "fixed in a tangible medium of expression" - written on a piece of paper, saved on a computer hard drive, or recorded on an audio or video tape.

Some things are not protected by copyright. These include:

  • Facts and ideas
  • Processes, methods, systems and procedures
  • Titles
  • All works prepared by the United States Government Constitutions and laws of stat governments
  • Materials that have passed into the public domain

Please note – while these may not be covered by copyright, they may be protected under other laws such as trademarks or patents.

Copyright protection starts as soon as the work is created and does not require a © to be copyrighted. Because of this, it's best to assume all materials to be copyrighted unless you find information to the contrary, particularly if they were downloaded from the internet.

Public domain

The original notion of copyright was to protect the creator for a set period of time. After that, the work becomes public domain and no longer has a copyright. Modern works also can be designated as public domain.

While the original copyright lasted only seven years, current laws last from the moment a work is created until 70 years after the death of the author, except for works produced by a company/employer􀀟in which case the copyright lasts 95 years from the date of publication.

Realistically, most public domain works come from around the turn of the 20th century.

Just because the original work is public domain does not mean later works are. The song "Mary Had a Little Lamb" is in the public domain, but a modern recording of it would be copyrighted by the author.

Fair use

The law does allow the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research. These uses are considered to be "fair use."

With the use of copyrighted material, fair use is based on four factors:

  1. Purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
    Courts look at how the party claiming fair use is using the copyrighted work/and are more likely to find nonprofit educational and noncommercial uses are fair. This does not mean, however, all nonprofit education and noncommercial uses are fair and all commercial uses are not fair; instead, courts will balance the purpose and character of the use against the other factors below. Additionally, "transformative" uses are more likely to be considered fair. Transformative uses are those that add something new, with a further purpose or different character, and do not substitute for the original use of the work.
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work.
    This factor analyzes the degree to which the work used relates to copyright's purpose of encouraging creative expression. Thus, using a more creative or imaginative work (such as a novel, movie or song) is less likely to support a claim of a fair use than using a factual work (such as a technical article or news item). In addition, use of an unpublished work is less likely to be considered fair.
  3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole:
    Under this factor, courts look at both the quantity and quality of the copyrighted material used. If the use includes a large portion of the copyrighted work, fair use is less likely to be found; if the use employs only a small amount of copyrighted material, fair use is more likely. That said, some courts have found use of an entire work to be fair under certain circumstances. And in other contexts, using even a small amount of a copyrighted work was determined not to be fair because the selection was an important part of the work.
  4. Effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.
    Here, courts review whether, and to what extent, the unlicensed􀀎use harms the existing or future market for the copyright owner's original work. In assessing this factor, courts consider whether the use is hurting the current market for the original work (for example, by displacing sales of the original) and/or whether the use could cause substantial harm if it were to become widespread.


Fair use is determined by the courts on a case-by-case basis. Please be aware that even though you might feel that your use of copyrighted materials falls under fair use, you can still be sued.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a method of legally sharing copyrighted works outside of the copyrighted system. The Creative Commons organization offers several levels of licenses allowing you to use a creative work. Search engines such as Google allow you to search for Creative Commons works. All the licenses require attribution, or tell who created the original work, and most have limitation on selling or sharing your work, so check what level of license is being used.


I bought a song from iTunes. Why can't I play music at a public event or in a slideshow or video?

When you buy a CD or song off the internet, you are purchasing the rights to listen to it for your personal pleasure. Generally, you do not have the right to play the song at a public event. Play some music in the background at a private party or using it for a family slide will probably not get you in trouble. You can find free or low-cost music, particularly for nonprofit projects, on these sites:


Not all music on these sites is free, and many come with restrictions on attribution, selling and occasionally sharing your projects. Please look at the rights and restrictions before using.

How does YouTube handle copyright?

Immediately upon upload, YouTube will check the audio of your video against a music database. If yours is found with copyrighted music, the copyright owner will be notified. Usually, the video will be monetized with ads, with the income going to the copyright owner, and a link to purchase the music may be included on the web page. They also can decide to block the video, block the video on certain platforms or mute the video. However, copyright owners do have the right to sue.

After three copyright "strikes,” your account will be terminated, all the videos uploaded to your account will be removed and you won't be able to create new accounts. YouTube does have a method of asking the copyright holder for a retraction or filing a counter notification.

If someone plays a song at an event, is that copyright infringement?

Yes. Even though you aren't using the original artist's version, you still need a "mechanical license" to use the music and lyrics in a public space.

Can I use a video clip in a class to illustrate a point?

Yes (probably), as long as you meet the four requirements. This is exactly why fair use was made.

Can I post a video of me using the clip on YouTube?

The short answer is yes. Fair use extends to YouTube and the internet. However, YouTube might flag the video as a copyright violation though, requiring you to justify it being fair use.

Where can I learn more?


Happy fair using,

Craig Woods
Senior Producer/Director
Agricultural Communications Services


Jul 31, 2017 12:00 AM

Let's Get Social

Social media has changed the game when it comes to connecting with consumers. We now have access to constant two-way communication at our fingertips thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and numerous other platforms. If you do not have the correct tools in place, social media can be intimidating; I get it. You need a road map.

Before we embark on this epic road trip, let's fuel up with some background knowledge. Less than five years ago, to be successful, all you needed was a Facebook Fan Page. Since then, organic reach has plummeted thanks to one word: algorithm. The Facebook algorithm determines the number of fans to whom your post is served. You might have noticed your personal Facebook timeline reflects this. Most of the posts are not in chronological order; the most popular posts are showing up first. Facebook also owns Instagram, and over the past year, we have watched Instagram slowly morph into a mini Facebook.

Unfortunately, social media has turned into a pay-to-play platform. The good news? By adopting my recommended best practices, you can create engaging content  more people will see, thus increasing your overall score and manipulating the algorithm.

Best practices:

  • A strong headline or message is key to grabbing people’s attention. How? Think about each social media post as a mini press release.
  • When sharing the same piece of content across multiple networks, optimize it for each one. How? Utilize free tools such as Canva and Sprout Social Landscape to help.
  • Vary your content regularly (videos, link previews, photos/graphics, text only posts). Why? Because you do not want your users to get bored with your content and it will also help boost you your algorithm score.
  • Do not post too many updates at once. Why? You will overwhelm your followers. Instead, try to split the content into different posts scheduled throughout the day or week.
  • End your posts with a clear call to action. Why? As consumers, we are constantly bombarded with advertisements. We need to tell our fans what they need to do. Do they need to call to register for a canning workshop? Click for a speech contest application? Press play to watch the latest Cow-Calf Corner video? You will be amazed at the uptick in engagement this simple trick provides.


Now that you know my best practices, let's get to the good part! Creating content can be both fun and exciting. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are filling out your content calendar.

Know your audience:

  • Stakeholders
    • Community leaders, state officials, donors
    • Current and prospective volunteers
    • 4-H parents
    • Current and prospective 4-H members
    • Current and prospective students
    • News outlets
    • Agricultural and natural resource producers


What to post:

  • Meeting reminders
  • Deadlines
  • Contest results
  • Events
  • Community involvement
  • Photos


Highlight your:

  • Staff
  • Faculty
  • Volunteers
  • Members
  • Officers
  • Awards/achievements
  • Press releases
  • Journal articles
  • TV interviews/segments


Last month, I hosted a webinar covering the topics discussed above. You can watch the live recording of it here. If you have any questions or need more in-depth information, please feel free to email me. I hope you have found this information helpful.


Lindsey Davidson
Social Media Marketing Coordinator
Agricultural Communications Services


Jul 17, 2017 12:05 PM

Crisis Communications

Like a fire extinguisher and the airbags in your vehicle, a crisis communications plan is crucial for organizations large and small. It also is something we sincerely hope you never need. Consider it a safety net that is especially important in world of instant global communication and social media. Reputation and credibility can be damaged (sometimes irreparably) in a matter of seconds.

For years, DASNR has had a specific crisis communications plan that outlines protocol in the event of an emergency, tragedy, natural disaster or scandal. It includes the two state agencies, as well as CASNR. It all fits within an overall university strategy. The team in Ag Communications Services updates the plan regularly. We recommend that you take a look at it, share the information with your own team and ask questions if you have them.

Finally, should you be faced with a crisis or potential crisis, our crisis checklist is a good place to start. And please don’t hesitate to reach out to our unit. We are here to support our colleagues statewide and can rally together to create a specific strategy to support your specific situation. That includes social media support, media relations, content development, news advisories and releases, web, video and marketing. And speaking of media relations, want to know the two words never say to a news reporter? No comment. Instead, consider referring them to your friends in Ag Comm. We’re here to help.


Lyndall Stout
Agricultural Communications Services

Check out the DASNR Crisis Communications resources.


Apr 03, 2017 04:25 PM

One picture is worth a thousand words

Why use images in your materials?

Images can help tell a story, they can educate, elicit emotion and promote attention. Images also increase engagement. As this article explains:

  • Facebook posts with images see 2.3 times more engagement than those without images.
  • Tweets with images receive 150 percent more retweets than tweets without images.

We’ve all heard the old adage, “One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words,” which may or may not be true, but it certainly doesn’t have to cost a thousand dollars. No one wants to pay too much for images either by fees, licenses, or the really undesirable cost of fines and penalties from using copyrighted photos.

The good news is there are several sites available that offer free images for use both commercially and personally.

Understanding copyright law

However, “royalty free” and “free download” do not mean there is no cost. Often, sites advertise with these catch words but most often take you to a site where you’re required to pay.

Additionallly, even if you find a site that allows you to download an image at no cost, be extremely careful to read the use information. Copyrights are complicated and lawyers make lifetime careers explaining, creating and defending them. So be very careful using images that you do not know the source and creator. You don’t want to finance the copyright lawyers next European vacation.

Your best bet is to use a trusted source, and I’ve outlined a few below.

Where to get images?

1. DANSR’s Kitchensink site

Agricultural Communications Services has created a repository of images pertaining to OSU, DASNR, CASNR, OAES or OCES, including 4-H, FCS, OHCE, Rural Development, and our ever-growing special programs and partnerships. We call this site the Kitchensink because it has everything but the kitchen sink. We have proper releases for people in the images and are free for you to use for DASNR-related activities as long as they are not used to endorse or disparage any person, product or service.

While the site has existed for many years, we’ve recently moved it to an outside resource provider to increas uptimes, reduce costs and improve search results.

To download images from the site, you can create a free user account. Creating an account on the site allows us to give you more download options but you must let us know that you have created an account as that information is not automatically transferred to us.

You can search for images using keywords, but the search function on Photoshelter is not as sophisticated as Google or other search engines. For best results, use simple keywords each separated by a comma. For example, search for cattle, wheat rather than brown cow on green wheat.

The Sink grows every day, so check back often!

2. The public domain

The public domain refers to copyright-free works that anyone can use in any way for any purpose. Copyright.gov explains the public domain as follows: "A work of authorship is in the “public domain” if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner."

Wikipedia has a great list of collections of images in the public domain. However, as always, read the use info carefully before you download or use an image.

3. Creative Commons

A Creative Commons license enables free distribution of otherwise copyrighted work. Authors can license their work through Creative Commons to give others the legal right to share, use and build upon their work. The Creative Commons organization works with groups like Flickr, 500px, Vimeo, YouTube and more. Learn more about types of CC licenses.

Other photo resources

Below is a list of other sites I have found useful.

  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Digital Library is a collection of selected images, historical artifacts, audio clips, publications and video, most of which are in the public domain.
  • The NRCS Photo Gallery contains natural resource and conservation related photos. If you use any of these photos please use one of the following credit lines; Photo by (photographer's name), USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Photo courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; or Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS. There are several regulations in place, for more information visit the NRCS website.

  • Free content from photographer/artist/designer here.
  • Snappy Goat provides 14 million free public domain images, photos and clipart.
  • Pixabay is a website where you may find and share images that can be used for commercial purposes.

Thanks to Ursula O’Hara, manager of communication services in the College of Human Sciences, for sharing the following sites.

  • The digital images found in the SNAP-Ed Photo Gallery provide a complimentary resource by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP). Photographs are to be used for communicating nutrition education and outreach messages. However, these pictures can only be used for promotional, informational and educational purposes.
  • Stock Snap is another option for free photos and images.
  • For those with interest in fun and historical photos, the OSU library archives has many black and white options.



Todd Johnson
Communications Specialist


Apr 03, 2017 04:25 PM

Three things to know about ACS news and media relations

The News and Media Relations team at OSU Agricultural Communications Services has gone through a facelift over the past year. The group still offers many of the same services as it has historically, but there are some new features you may not know about. Below are the Top 3 services provided by OSU Ag Comm News and Media Relations that might be flying under the radar.

1. Premier Content

Every week a new feature article will be posted in the Premier Content portion of the website. These stories are not like the average press release, rather they go into more personal and detailed information. Also, Premier Content is posted exclusively online, but can still be used for any communications needs you may have.

2. DASNR Resource Centers

Considered “evergreen” content, our DASNR Resource Centers are full of information that can be used throughout the year. Inside each center you will find press releases, fact sheets, photos and videos relative to timely information applicable on the state level. When it’s winter, come check out the winter preparedness Resource Center. When it’s tornado season, come check out the tornado preparedness and recovery center. Any guesses where you should go if you have bed bugs? We have a center for that.

3. Division News

Every press release, feature story and/or media advisory we produce can be found in the Division News section of the website. These items have been released to media outlets and are free and open for the taking. There is a six-month shelf life on these items, so you have some time to track down information.

Every word on the ACS News and Media Relations page has been approved by the appropriate people and is available for any communications needs you have. If you write a column for your local paper and need some content, want some information for your newsletter, or literally any other reason, please take what you need. You can remove and/or replace bylines, or change attribution of quoted material if you need.

Please let us know how you use this content and if we’re missing anything. Thanks!

Sean Hubbard
Communications Specialist
News and Media Relations Workgroup


Mar 03, 2017 04:25 PM

Welcome to ACS: Your friendly neighborhood communications professionals

Hello, everyone! Thanks for checking out the Ag Comm blog. The goal of this post is to provide an overview of the creative services available through our unit to help support DASNR's communications and marketing efforts.

Agricultural Communications Services - or ACS - or Ag Comm - is a non-academic service unit comprised of professional communicators. The experienced staff covers the gamut: writing, editing, videography, television production, graphic design, illustrations, photography, website design, marketing and social media. From fact sheets to logos, press releases, videos, portraits and Twitter tips (to name only a few) - we serve as the official news and information unit for the division, as well as its marketing firm and television production studio. And we thoroughly enjoy every aspect!

We work closely with our Extension, research and teaching colleagues on campus and statewide to gather and disseminate information. Our number one goal is to support the university's land-grant mission by getting credible, unbiased information into the hands of people who can use it. In today's increasingly competitive communications environment, we routinely develop strategies and create materials designed to underscore the DASNR and OSU brand - while also engaging and informing existing and new audiences.

If you have a project in mind, want to ramp up your program's social media efforts, or have an interesting story to suggest - we would love to hear from you. The best place to get started is our website, where you can learn more about our services, meet our team and check out our project request form. You may also email us anytime at agcommservices@okstate.edu or chat on the phone at 405-744-4065. We look forward to hearing from you!


Lyndall Stout
ACS Director & SUNUP Host

Mar 02, 2017 04:25 PM