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Copyright : Copyright Basics

Resources pertaining to copyright compliance and copyright law.

Fair Use

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.

Open Access

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 This also  does not mean that the work is  not peer reviewed because there are some journals that peer review and them make articles open access.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 the link below:

Creative Commons

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:

Creative Commons License

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 link below:

Public Domain

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. 

Myths about Copyright

There are many myths and misconceptions about copyright. The link below address some of the most common ones. 

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a United States Law (Title 17, U.S. Code), that protects the rights of the creator of a work. The copyright owner has exclusive rights to:

  • reproduce or copy the work
  • prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work
  • distribute the work to the public
  • perform the work in public
  • display the work in public

How does Copyright affect you?

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. 

Length of Copyright

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. 

How Mickey Mouse Destroyed the Public Domain

Subject Guide


This guide does not supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.

Association of Research Libraries on Copyright