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What is copyright?

The following is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, contact a lawyer.

Copyright law protects original creative works, such as software, video games, books, music, images, and videos. Copyright law varies by country. Copyright owners generally have the right to control certain unauthorized uses of their work (including the right to sue people who use their copyrighted work without permission). As a result, certain images and other copyrighted content may require permissions or licenses, especially if you use the work in a commercial setting. For example, even if you have permission to use an image, you may need additional permission to use what is in the image (e.g., a photo of a sculpture, a person, or a logo) because someone else's copyright, trademark, or publicity rights might also be involved. You are responsible for obtaining all of the permissions and licenses necessary to use the content in your specific context.

However, even copyright-protected works can be lawfully used without permission from the copyright holder in certain circumstances. The Wikipedia entry on copyright law contains a useful overview of copyright law, including fair use and other exceptions to copyright law.

Copyright FAQ

Find answers to frequently asked questions about copyrights.
  • No. Not all creative works are protected by copyright. There are many exceptions to and limits on copyright protection. For example, copyright only protects creative works for limited periods of time. After the period of protection expires, the copyrighted work enters the public domain. If a work is in the public domain, the work may be freely used without permission from the creator of the work. However, just because a work is available online does not mean it's in the public domain or free to use.

    Learn more about the public domain on Wikipedia

  • The copyright laws of many countries have specific exceptions and limitations to copyright protection. For example, in the United States, "fair use" allows you to use a copyrighted work without permission in certain circumstances (e.g., a book review that includes some of the book being reviewed). 

    Explore Wikipedia and the Electronic Frontier Foundation for useful descriptions of fair use.

  • It depends; sometimes it is fine to upload copyrighted materials to Microsoft's websites without seeking permission from the copyright owner (e.g., backing up your personal files, such as your family photos, on OneDrive). However, we are generally required by law to disable access to copyrighted content (including videos, music, photographs, or other content you upload onto a Microsoft website) if the copyright holder claims that the use of the copyrighted work is infringing. You can let us know if you believe that a copyright holder wrongly requested that we disable access to content you uploaded (e.g., you believe you have the rights to use that content or because your use is a fair use). Note that if you repeatedly use your Microsoft account to infringe, we may terminate your account. So please, respect other people's copyrights.

  • If you believe that content hosted by Microsoft infringes your copyright, contact us by visiting Reporting Infringement to Microsoft and complete the information requested there.


  • Some content available online, such as public domain content, is free to use because it is not subject to copyright protection. Other content might be subject to copyright, but the copyright holder licenses content with certain restrictions, such as under the Creative Commons license. Bing's image search lets you limit results only to Creative Commons-licensed images (after running an image search, click "license"). Other copyrighted content may be used without permission because a limitation or exception to copyright applies (see above discussion of fair use).

    Of course, some online content is not free to use, is not licensed by the copyright holder, and your use will not qualify as fair use. Unfortunately, we can't provide specific guidance regarding the use of particular content, so select the works you use carefully.



    It depends, but it is generally a good practice to credit the original creator of the content. Some content creators require that you give them credit when you use their work as a condition of use. You should carefully review any license requirements for any content you plan to use prior to using any content.


  • For more information regarding Microsoft's web crawling and site indexing practices, refer to the Bing blog on the Robots Exclusion Protocol.
  • AI tools have the power to make knowledge more accessible and useful to more people than ever before. These tools empower creators, developers, businesses, and individuals to do more with their written works, design, artwork, and code. Microsoft makes generative AI tools available in accordance with the principles outlined at Our approach to responsible AI at Microsoft. Microsoft does not claim ownership of the output generated by such AI tools. For additional information relating to specific AI-infused Microsoft products and services, refer to your agreement with Microsoft applicable to the relevant product or service.


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