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Copyright Basics

What is Copyright

Copyright grants authors a limited monopoly over their works, encouraging them to create new works while also creating a public domain of ideas, knowledge, and information upon which society can build.

When Is Copyright Established

Copyright is established the moment an idea is put into a fixed medium. Copyright does not require registration or the display of the copyright symbol to exist. Registration is required only if someone wishes to pursue a lawsuit.

What Can be Copyrighted

Copyright resides in the unique expression of an idea which is in a fixed medium. A fixed medium is something that can be reproduced. Copyright protects:

  • Literature
  • Music
  • Art
  • Drama
  • Other intellectual work:
    • computer programs
    • choreography
    • architecture
Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §102 (2000)

What Cannot be Copyrighted

  • Ideas, procedures, methods
  • Facts
  • Titles, names, slogans, listing of ingredients, or colors
  • Works that are not in a fixed medium, e.g., an extemporaneous speech
  • Federal Government publications
  • Common knowledge

What Does Copyright Protect

Copyright grants authors the exclusive rights to:

  • make copies
  • sell or otherwise distribute their work
  • create new works (derivatives) based upon their work
  • perform or display their work in public
Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §106 (2000)

This brochure was created by Laura Pope Robbins in 2004 and covers 16 basic facts about copyright.

Last updated March 30, 2012, at 07:59 AM by Laura Pope Robbins