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This guide is informational and in no way constitutes legal advice.


What is copyright?

U.S. copyright law exists to protect the rights of authors and creators (or the copyright holder) of original intellectual and creative works by granting control over the use, reproduction, performance, sale, and distribution for a limited time specified by copyright law. The rationale being that an economic incentive promotes the creation and dissemination of new works, which is a public good.

According to Section 106 , title 17, U.S. Code, the "Exclusive rights of the copyright holder" are:

(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;

(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;

(3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;

(4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;

(5) 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 audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and

(6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.


Copyright automatically applies to all information once it is "fixed in a tangible medium" and it is not necessary to register for or provide notice of copyright.

However, there are limitations on copyright and exemptions for non-profit educational use. Sharing for educational purposes, providing appropriate attribution, and restricting access to a password protected content management system (Blackboard) are important considerations. However, none of these factors on their own suspends the rights of the copyright holder.



From the Copyright Clearance Center:

"Copyright Basics" 

"Copyright on Campus"