Copyright law allows the use and reproduction of works under certain circumstances. This is know as Fair Use and this principal allows for the use of works for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. Uses that fall under these categories and adhere to the other considerations of Fair Use are not a violation of copyright law.
More information about Fair Use can be found in the Fair Use section of this guide.
When something is Open Access it means that it available free online and does not have most copyright restrictions. This is done with the consent of the copyright holder. This also does not mean that the work is not peer reviewed because there are some journals that peer review and them make articles open access.
For more information about what Open Access is and what it means for readers and authors visit Peter Suber's Introduction to Open Access
Creative Commons provides a way for creators to allow for the use of their work while still retaining the rights to that work. These licenses allow the authors to decide how others may use their work and under what circumstances. A work that is licensed under Creative Commons will feature this icon:
This image lets you know what permission you have to use the work and how the author would like to be given credit.
For information on the type of licenses and what the images mean visit the Creative Commons website.
Works for which copyright protection has expired or that did not fall under copyright to begin with are considered to be in the Public Domain. These works can be used freely and without permission.
For more information about Public Domain please visit Columbia University Libraries' Copyright Advisory Office.
What we know as copyright comes from the U.S Constitution, specifically Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8. It states that:
"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."
This means that the creators of works have a exclusive right to publish and sell their work for a limited period of time. That this time frame is for this protection and what it covers has been expanded over time into what we now call "Copyright Law" and the united state government has a copyright office, which is a department of the Library of Congress.
Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. These works can be published or unpublished.
Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation.
You do not need to register your work with the Copyright Office in order for it to be protected. The biggest consideration is that it must be in a fixed and tangible form to be protected. This means as long as you have a physical representation of you work it is protected from the moment that you create it.
There are certain circumstances where the creator does not retain rights to the work. One of these is if the creator was hired by an employer to create the work or it creation is a part of their duties. In this case the employer is considered the author of the work or that the creator and employer have joint ownership. Creators are also able to waive copyright protection for their work as well. This can be done Open Access or Creative Commons, which allow creators to waive certain rights while keeping others.
This is very important for your own work but also important to remember about the work of others as well. Just because something has not been formally published does not mean that copyright does apply, this is why it is always important to be mindful of how you are using other's work.
Works created on or after January 1, 1978:
Creators retain right to the work for the life of the creator plus 70 years. In the case of works for hire (created for an employer) or those works that are anonymously created the time frame is either 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation depending in which one is shorter.
Once a work has moved out of copyright protection it is considered to be in the public Domain.