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Copyright and Fair Use Resources: Home

Copyright Basics

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a legal protection automatically granted to creators of certain types of works. Copyright can also be transferred to others through legal agreements. Copyright owners have these rights (17 U.S. Code § 106. Exclusive rights in copyrighted works)

  • make copies 
  • distribute copies (selling, renting, lending, giving away)
  • perform or display the work publicly
  • make derivative works (translations, adaptations, or reinterpretations) 

When is Copyright Granted?

Copyright is automatically granted to a creator once a work is fixed into a tangible medium of expression and includes "original creative expression" (17 U.S. Code § 102.Subject matter of copyright: In general). No registration or publication is required to have copyright protections.That means the moment a story is written down, a song recorded, or a picture taken the creator generally holds a copyright in that object. 

What's Protected?

Only certain types of works qualify for protection: 

These include:

  • literary works
  • musical works, including accompanying words
  • dramatic works, including accompanying music
  • pantomimes and choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works

What's Not Protected?

Certain types of works are excluded from copyright protection (17 U.S. Code § 102. Subject matter of copyright: In general)

  • procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation
  • ideas, concepts, principles, or discoveries
  • titles, names, short phrases and slogans; familiar symbols or designs, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, mere listings of ingredients or contents
  • other unoriginal or unfixed work

More information can be found on the US Copyright Office website

How Long Does Copyright Last?

For works created today and on, copyright lasts from the moment the work is created and last until 70 years after they die. Older works have varying lengths of copyright. See this article on The Public Domain to determine copyright terms.

This guide is designed to provide resources for the campus community to understand copyright and fair use as it applies to the educational setting 

Neither the use of this guide nor the content presented here constitute legal advice.

Copyright and Emerging Technologies Librarian

Copyright Laws

Copyright is a set of legal protections codified in United States law. These are the most common laws but is not meant to be an exhaustive list.