Overview and FAQ - Purdue University Copyright Office (2022)

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The Basics Definitions FAQs Videos

Copyright is all about balancing the rights of authors with the rights of the public to use the work without seeking permission or paying royalties.

Under copyright, authors have the right to control the use of their work subject to exceptions permitted under the law. If the use exceeds such exceptions, then infringing on someone's copyright can result in the infringer paying money damages (civil liability) and/or going to prison (criminal liability). To understand your rights and responsibilities under the copyright law, review the basics and the exceptions.

The Basics

What is copyright?
  • Copyright is a federal law. It is Title 17 of the United States Code.

  • Copyright is the right of authors to control the use of their work for a limited period of time.

  • A copyrighted work must be an original work of authorship which is fixed in a tangible medium of expression.

Where did copyright law originate?

Copyright law originated with the United States Constitution. In Article I, Section 8, the Constitution states that "Congress shall have the power . . . to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries".

  • The U.S. Copyright Office of the Library of Congress is responsible for overseeing the administrative functions of the copyright law.

  • Congress enacts copyright laws.

    (Video) Introduction to Copyrights and their Functions: Module 1 of 5

  • The Federal courts interpret and enforce the copyright law.

Why is copyright law important?

Copyright law provides exclusive rights to authors in order to protect their work but these rights are for a limited period of time. The Framers of the U.S. Constitution wanted to incentivize authors to create new works which would promote learning but also balance the authors rights with the rights of the public to use the works freely under certain conditions.

When does a work become copyrighted?

Under the U.S. Copyright Act, a work is protected if it is original and when it is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. After March 1, 1989 works no longer require a copyright notice (© or the word copyright, the author's name and the year of publication). However, it is wise to affix a copyright notice to works so that the owner of the copyright can be easily identified. Copyright registration is also no longer required although the copyright owner has the option to register their work with the U.S. Copyright Office.

What can be copyrighted?

The following categories of works are copyrightable:

  • Literary, musical and dramatic works

  • Pantomimes and choreographic works

  • Pictorial, graphic and sculptural works

  • Sound recordings

  • Computer programs

  • (Video) Building on Copyrighted Works: Module 2 of 5

    Architectural works

What cannot be copyrighted?

The following categories of works are copyrightable:

What are the copyright holder's exclusive rights?

The owner of a copyright has six exclusive rights:

  • (Video) Transferring, Licensing, and Registering Copyrights: Module 4 of 5

    To reproduce the work.

  • To distribute the work.

  • To create derivative works.

  • To publicly perform the work.

  • To publicly display the work.

  • To publicly perform sound recordings by means of a digital audio transmission.

How long does copyright last?

Works created on or after January 1, 1978 are protected for a term of the life of the author plus 70 years. If it is a corporate author then the protection is for the shorter of 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation. Works created and published prior to 1978 may be protected for different lengths of time.

For example, author James Michener died in 1997. His works, such as Alaska, Texas, and The Eagle and The Raven, which were all created after 1978, are protected under the copyright law until 2067.

For more information regarding the length of a copyright, please see the copyright duration chart.

What is the public domain?

The public domain consists of all works that never had copyright protection and works that no longer have copyright protection. As of 2022, this includes works published in the United States prior to 1927.

The public domain also includes most works created by the United States government. For example, census reports, which are compiled and published by the United States government are in the public domain.

All works in the public domain are free for the public to use.

(Video) Copyright Protection for Digital Content: Module 3 of 5

Definitions

The U.S. Copyright Act provides definitions of many terms used in the law. The following are some examples of the definitions

creation
A work is created when is it fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time; where a work is prepared over a period of time, the portion that has been fixed at any particular time constitutes the work as of that time, and where the work has been prepared in different versions, each version constitutes a separate work.

derivitive works
A derivative work is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consists of editorial revision, annotation, elaboration, or other modifications, which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a derivative work.
display

To display a work means to show a copy of it, either directly or by means of a film slide, television image, or any other device or process or, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to show individual images nonsequentially.

To perform or display a work publicly means:

  • to perform or display it in a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or

  • to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public are capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.

fixed
A work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression when its embodiment in a copy or phonorecord, by or under the authority of the author, is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than transitory duration.
perform

To perform a work means to recite, render, play, dance, or act it, either directly or by means of any device or process, or, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to show images in any sequence or to make the sounds accompanying it audible.

To perform or display a work publicly means:

  • to perform or display it in a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or

  • to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public are capable of receiving the performance or display it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.

(Video) Copyright Duration, Renewal and Termination: Module 4 of 5

publication
Publication is the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display, constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication.

FAQs

How do you avoid copyright on documents? ›

Six steps to protect against copyright infringement claims
  1. Do not copy anything. ...
  2. Avoid non-virgin development. ...
  3. Avoid access to prior design work. ...
  4. Document right to use. ...
  5. Negotiate for enhanced warranty and indemnity clauses. ...
  6. Document your own work.

What are the 4 fair use exceptions to copyright? ›

Fair use of copyrighted works, as stated in US copyright law, “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”

How do you write a copyright statement? ›

The copyright notice generally consists of three elements: The symbol © (the letter C in a circle), or the word "Copyright" or the abbreviation "Copr."; The year of first publication of the work; and. The name of the owner of copyright in the work.

What are questions for copyright? ›

Common questions about copyright
  • Can copyright be inherited? Yes. ...
  • What happens when a copyright expires? ...
  • What types of work are protected? ...
  • How long does copyright last? ...
  • Does the nationality of the author matter? ...
  • Does format or quality of the work matter?

How long does copyright last? ›

The term of copyright for a particular work depends on several factors, including whether it has been published, and, if so, the date of first publication. As a general rule, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years.

How serious is copyright infringement? ›

In general, anyone found guilty of civil copyright infringement may be ordered to pay either actual damages or “statutory” damages affixed at not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work infringed. For “willful” infringement, a court may award up to $150,000 per work infringed.

What is not protected by copyright? ›

Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something. You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your description, but be aware that copyright will not protect the idea itself as revealed in your written or artistic work.

What are the 3 elements of a copyright law? ›

The three basic elements of copyright: originality, creativity, and fixation.

What is exempt from copyright law? ›

An exemption allows a user to exercise a copyright (like the right to make a copy) without prior permission from the copyright holder under certain conditions.

What are the 2 types of copyright? ›

There are two types of rights under copyright: economic rights, which allow the rights owner to derive financial reward from the use of their works by others; and. moral rights, which protect the non-economic interests of the author.

What is copyright explain with example? ›

Copyright vs. trademarks and patents
Copyright
What is protected?Original works of authorship
ExamplesAutobiography of Malcolm X (book), Hamilton (stage play)
Benefits of protectionPrevents others from copying or otherwise exploiting the copyrighted content without the copyright holder's permission

What is the importance of copyright? ›

Copyright is important as it helps to protect the value of an author/academic/researchers work, by giving the originator of the work the ability to protect it from unlicensed or uncredited usage.

What is the eligible for copyright? ›

Copyright comes into existence as soon as a work is created and no formality is required to be completed for acquiring copyright. However, certificate of registration of copyright and the entries made therein serve as prima facie evidence in a court of law with reference to dispute relating to ownership of copyright.

How can you protect rights of the copyright owner? ›

Rights of the copyright owner
  1. Right of Reproduction. This is the most prominent right which is acquired after the copyright protection. ...
  2. Right to Distribute. ...
  3. Right to make Derivative Works. ...
  4. Right to Publicly Perform. ...
  5. Right to Follow. ...
  6. Right of Paternity. ...
  7. Sui Generis Rights. ...
  8. Private Copying.
11 Apr 2016

How many times can a copyright be renewed? ›

The current law extends this copyright through the end of 2018. These second-term copyrights cannot be renewed again. Under the law, their extension to the maximum 95-year term is automatic and requires no action in the Copyright Office.

What year is copyright free? ›

As of 2019, copyright has expired for all works published in the United States before 1924. In other words, if the work was published in the U.S. before January 1, 1924, you are free to use it in the U.S. without permission.

What is the longest held copyright today? ›

The oldest work protected by copyright would have to be an early unpublished work that was first published after 1922. The work whose copyright will last the longest would have to have been published before 1978, which would then give the work a theoretical 95 year term from first publication.

Can you go to jail for copyright? ›

Can I go to jail for copyright infringement? Yes, violation of copyright laws is considered a criminal offense if the violation is willful and involves a certain amount of commercial profit. Offenders can receive up to 5 years in prison.

What is the most common copyright infringement? ›

Image and text are the two most common types of copyright infringement plagiarism. Whether music lyrics, academic writing, or stock photos, usually using them without informing the owner counts as copyright infringement.

How do you win a copyright infringement case? ›

The plaintiff in a copyright infringement lawsuit has the burden of proving two elements: that they own a copyright, and that the defendant infringed it. To establish ownership of a valid copyright, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the work is original, and that it is subject to legal protection.

Who owns the copyright? ›

Copyrights are generally owned by the people who create the works of expression, with some important exceptions: If a work is created by an employee in the course of his or her employment, the employer owns the copyright.

Which is the copyright symbol? ›

Using a Copyright symbol: ©

Can words be copyrighted? ›

You cannot obtain a copyright registration for one word. Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases. A copyright only exists for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. A copyright protects literary, musical, artistic, and dramatic works.

What are the five copyright laws? ›

The five fundamental rights that the bill gives to copyright owners—the exclusive rights of reproduction, adaptation, publication, performance, and display—are stated generally in section 106.

What are 4 things that can be copyrighted? ›

The following types of works are allowed protection under the copyright law:
  • Literary Works. ...
  • Musical Works. ...
  • Dramatic Works. ...
  • Pantomimes and Choreographic Works. ...
  • Pictorial, Graphic, and Sculptural Works. ...
  • Motion Pictures and Other Audiovisual Works. ...
  • Sound Recordings. ...
  • Compilations.
15 Jul 2022

How many copyright laws are there? ›

Exclusive rights. There are six basic rights protected by copyright.

Is copyright a human right? ›

Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

When can I use copyrighted material without permission? ›

Fair use allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder for purposes such as criticism, parody, news reporting, research and scholarship, and teaching. There are four factors to consider when determining whether your use is a fair one.

How much can you copy without infringing copyright? ›

You cannot change or alter the work. You may use up to 10%, but no more than 3 minutes, of a single movie, TV show or video. You may use up to 10%, but no more than 30 seconds, of music and lyrics from a single musical work. You must purchase performance rights to hold a live performance of a copyrighted work.

What is another word for copyright? ›

What is another word for copyright?
intellectual propertyIP
patenttrademark
trade secret

What is called copyright? ›

Copyright is a type of intellectual property that protects original works of authorship as soon as an author fixes the work in a tangible form of expression.

How do copyrights work? ›

Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.

What are copyright ethics? ›

In the case of copyright ethics these issues include respect for the author's achievement, respect for property interests, and a recognition of the social claim to fruits of intellectual activity and the social right of free access to information.

What is difference between copyright and patent? ›

A copyright protects the expression of an idea while a patent protects the idea itself. Patent works more on a design while copyright is another work of an already described design. Patent works in a very complex way. Its registration and verification are much longer and tedious.

What is an example of a copyright violation? ›

Creating merchandise for sale which features copyrighted words or images. Downloading music or films without paying for their use. Copying any literary or artistic work without a license or written agreement.

Why is copyright important for students? ›

Copyright is an important form of protection that gives the student rights over reproduction, public display, public distribution, public performance, and creation of derivative works from their copyrighted works.

Where does copyright apply? ›

Copyright is the legal protection extended to the owner of the rights in an original work. “Original work” refers to intellectual creation in the literary, scientific and artistic domain.

What are the benefits of protecting copyright and related rights? ›

Copyright protection entitles the creators to control use of their literary and artistic material in a number of ways such as making copies, performing in public, broadcasting, use on-line, etc. and to obtain an appropriate economic reward. Creators can therefore be rewarded for their creativity and investment.

What are the two important criteria for copyright protection? ›

In order for a work of authorship to meet the requirements for copyright protection, the work must satisfy two basic criteria: originality, and fixation. The specifics on what each criterion is and how it can be met is as followed.

What copyright owner can prohibit? ›

its public performance, such as in a play or musical work; its recording, for example, in the form of compact discs or DVDs; its broadcasting, by radio, cable or satellite; its translation into other languages; and.

What exclusive rights do copyright owners have? ›

Copyright owners of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works have the exclusive right to: reproduce the work (eg to scan, upload/download, photocopy, record, film) publish the work (ie make it public for the first time) communicate the work to the public (eg to make available on the internet, email, broadcast)

What do you write in a caption to avoid copyright? ›

Copyright @ [name & year]. Any illegal reproduction of this content will result in immediate legal action. Like in the example, your YouTube copyright disclaimer can just be the copyright symbol (or “C” or “Copyright”), but we recommend adding an advisement against theft to further protect your intellectual property.

How can a business avoid copyright? ›

  1. Use Original Content. ...
  2. Obtain Permission from Copyright Owners. ...
  3. Obtain Assignments from Content Creators. ...
  4. Pay Particular Attention to Photographs. ...
  5. Get a License for Music. ...
  6. Get a License for Movies and Television Programs. ...
  7. Get Legal Help.
29 Mar 2016

How can you avoid copyright infringement with images? ›

If you edit an image that you didn't create, copyright law still applies. The only way to avoid copyright infringement with images is to create unique works, purchase a license to use an image or find a free-to-use image.

How can we avoid fair use? ›

Best Practices to Avoid Violating Fair Use
  1. Be Original. Make sure your content is not a carbon-copy of the copyrighted content you are pulling from. ...
  2. Don't look to make a profit off of content you do not own. ...
  3. Limit yourself to the amount of copyrighted material you add to your content. ...
  4. Reverse roles.
21 Sept 2017

Can you just write copyright on something? ›

Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something. You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your description, but be aware that copyright will not protect the idea itself as revealed in your written or artistic work.

What is copyright example? ›

Copyright (or author's right) is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works. Works covered by copyright range from books, music, paintings, sculpture, and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps, and technical drawings.

What is the purpose of copyright? ›

Copyright laws work to control ownership, use, and distribution of creative and expressive works. In this economic story about copyright, people think that most creators make their creative works so that they can get paid. When copyright enables creators to get paid, more creators make more works.

What happens if copyright is breached? ›

Any individual or business that infringes copyright can face legal action. Infringement is usually treated as civil offence but can, in certain circumstances, be deemed a criminal offence, with damages awarded by a court. Depending on the severity of the infringement, the result can be a fine or even imprisonment.

How much can you copy without infringing copyright? ›

You cannot change or alter the work. You may use up to 10%, but no more than 3 minutes, of a single movie, TV show or video. You may use up to 10%, but no more than 30 seconds, of music and lyrics from a single musical work. You must purchase performance rights to hold a live performance of a copyrighted work.

What happens if you use copyrighted images without permission? ›

If you use a copyrighted work without authorization, the owner may be entitled to bring an infringement action against you. There are circumstances under the fair use doctrine where a quote or a sample may be used without permission.

Can I edit a copyrighted image and use it? ›

You must take permission from the copyright owner before you use or edit it for commercial, personal, or any other purpose.

How much do I need to edit a copyrighted image to legally use it? ›

How much do you have to change artwork to avoid copyright? There is actually no percentage by which you must change an image to avoid copyright infringement. While some say that you have to change 10-30% of a copyrighted work to avoid infringement, that has been proven to be a myth.

When can I use copyrighted material without permission? ›

Fair use allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder for purposes such as criticism, parody, news reporting, research and scholarship, and teaching. There are four factors to consider when determining whether your use is a fair one.

What is the difference between copyright and fair use? ›

Fair use only goes as far as being able to use it without making money off of it. A copyright gives you full ownership of the work, allowing you to claim it as your own and potentially make money off of it.

What are the 4 factors of fair use? ›

  • Factor 1: The Purpose and Character of the Use.
  • Factor 2: The Nature of the Copyrighted Work.
  • Factor 3: The Amount or Substantiality of the Portion Used.
  • Factor 4: The Effect of the Use on the Potential Market for or Value of the Work.
  • Resources.

Videos

1. Rajendra Abhyankar - Diplomacy, Technology, and Democracy
(Purdue Engineering)
2. The Process of Securing Copyright Protection: Module 5 of 5
(LawShelf)
3. Copyright Enforcement: Module 5 of 5
(LawShelf)
4. Legal Term: Copyright
(LawShelf)
5. Copyright Protection: What Can Be Protected and What Cannot be Protected
(LawShelf)
6. Copyright Infringement, Mic Types and Payola on Ask Simply Mary
(Simply Mary)

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