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Learn About Copyright

Copyright

COPYRIGHT

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.?S. Code) to the authors of original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
  • (1)To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
  • (2)To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
  • (3)To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  • (4)To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audio visual works;
  • (5)To display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audio visual work; and
  • (6)In the case of sound recordings,* to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

FAIR USE

As one of the limitations on a copyright owner's exclusive rights, fair use allows limited use of copyright material without requiring permission from the rights holders. Congress purposefully created a flexible fair-use statute that gives no exact parameters: fair use depends on the circumstances of each case.
In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:
  • (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  • (2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
  • (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
The distinction between "fair use" of a copyrighted work and infringement can be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission if permission is necessary.
The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: "quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author's observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported."

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce. IP is divided into two categories: Industrial property, which includes inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, and geographic indications of source; and Copyright, which includes literary and artistic works such as novels, poems and plays, films, musical works, artistic works such as drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures, and architectural designs. Rights related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and those of broadcasters in their radio and television programs.

PUBLIC DOMAIN

A public domain work is a creative work that is not protected by copyright and which may be freely used by everyone. The reasons that the work is not protected include the following:
  • (1) The term of copyright for the work has expired (see chart linked below);
  • (2) The author failed to satisfy statutory formalities to perfect the copyright (see chart linked below),
  • (3) The work is a work of the U.S. Federal Government or
  • (4) The work has been assigned by the copyright holder to the public domain.

CREATIVE COMMONS

Creative Commons is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright.