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Copyright: Copyright Law

An overview of US Copyright Law.

Definition of Copyright

Copyright refers to a person’s right to copy work that was created.  In order to be applied under copyright law, works need to be tangible and creative.  To use a copyrighted work, a person would have to purchase the item or a license of the item, receive permission from the copyright owner, use the work that corresponds with the Fair Use Doctrine, or use the work in an educational setting that corresponds with the TEACH Act.

Essential Copyright Web Sites

Copyright Basics - From U.S. Copyright Office.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act - The American Library Association's (ALA) Summary of the DMCA and how it impacts libraries.

Copyright Law of the United States - The complete full-text of U.S. Copyright Law, with a choice of formats for downloading. - Official government website on copyright law.

Copyright | American Library Association - From the ALA, web page highlights copyright and intellectual property issues important to librarians and information professionals, with an emphasis on legislative advocacy.

Copyright Crash Course - Created by Georgia Harper at the University of Texas at Austin, this web site provides a thorough, readable overview of copyright issues of interest to faculty and researchers in higher education.

Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Center - Aimed at librarians and educators, this web site "includes primary case law, statutes, regulations, as well as current feeds of newly filed copyright lawsuits, pending legislation, regulations, copyright office news, scholarly articles, blog and twitter feeds from practicing attorneys and law professors."

Creative Commons - Creative Commons provides licensing options for creators who are interested in protecting and sharing their work.

Citing and Keeping Track of Sources - Step 7 Page from Davis Library's Research Process LibGuide.


Public Domain Information

Some materials are in the public domain, which means the intellectual property is not owned or controlled by any person or entity. Materials in the public domain can be used freely, although they may need to be properly cited. Determining copyright terms and what is in the public domain can be difficult; this site is an informational starting point.

Copyright Term and the Public Domain
The Copyright Genie

Creative Commons' Public Domain Mark

Copyright logo.

How Long Does Copyright Last? - From Stanford University

For works published after 1977, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. However, if the work is a work for hire (that is, the work is done in the course of employment or has been specifically commissioned) or is published anonymously or under a pseudonym, the copyright lasts between 95 and 120 years, depending on the date the work is published.

All works published in the United States before 1923 are in the public domain. Works published after 1922, but before 1978 are protected for 95 years from the date of publication. If the work was created, but not published, before 1978, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. However, even if the author died over 70 years ago, the copyright in an unpublished work lasts until December 31, 2002. And if such a work is published before December 31, 2002, the copyright will last until December 31, 2047.

See More Copyright Frequently Asked Questions.

What is Copyright? By Shihaam Donnelly

Copyright Infographic.