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A lobbying group in Washington recently released "The Netsurfer's Simple Guide To Copyrights," which distills U.S. copyright law into five maxims:

  1. If you didn't create a written work, art, photograph, or music, or obtain distribution rights to it, you don't own it.
  2. If you don't own it, you can't copy or distribute it.
  3. The author or owner must explicitly relinquish rights for a work to be placed in the public domain.
  4. Fair use allows copying of small portions of a work without the owner's permission, but only for criticism, education, and news reporting.
  5. When in doubt, ask for permission to use a work.

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