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Scholarly Communications@WSU

A guide for Faculty and Librarians covering DigitalCommons@WayneState, Author's Rights, Open Access, and other related topics.

Copyright Defined

“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 This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.”

Copyright Basics from the U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright Basics

What does copyright do?

Copyright law gives an author of a work a bundle of exclusive rights to do and to authorize others to do the following with the work:

  • To reproduce the work
  • To prepare derivative works based on the work
  • To distribute copies of the work to the public
  • To perform the work publicly
  • To display the work publicly

When does copyright take effect?

Copyright takes effect the moment a work is fixed in any tangible medium. 

Do I need to register my work?

It is not necessary to register a work with the U.S. Copyright Office for a work to be protected under copyright law. However, registration does afford certain advantages if the copyright of a work is challenged in court.

How long is a work covered by copyright?

Length of copyright term for a work varies and is contingent upon when the work was created, and where it was published. Currently, the basic term of protection is life of the author plus 70 years. If a work is no longer protected by copyright, it is considered to be in the public domain. All works published in the United States before 1923 are in the public domain.

Are there exceptions to copyright?

There are a number of exceptions to copyright. The most frequently applied exception for teaching and scholarly use is covered in Section 107, Fair Use.

Section 107 contains a non-exclusive list of purposes for which the use of a copyrighted work would be considered “fair,” such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research. Determining whether a proposed use is fair is case specific, and requires consideration of these four factors:

  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.
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Copyright News - Library Copyright Alliance

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Copyright News - Copyright Litigation

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Creative Commons

About Creative Commons

Creative Commons (CC) 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. CC provides free licenses and other legal tools to mark scholarly work with the freedom the creator wants it to carry, so others can share, remix, use commercially, or any combination thereof.

CC licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright, so you can modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs.

Who Uses Creative Commons?

Google, Flickr, the Public Library of Science, MIT's OpenCourseWare, and thousands of researchers and scholars across the world apply CC licenses to their as an efficient method to providing clear and concise terms for the re-use of their work.

An Example

There are six different types of licenses that can be applied to a work. Most common in academia is the use of an Attribution-Non Commercial License (cc by-nc). This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms. A work that has this license will contain a logo and link to a deed that looks like this:

Creative Commons License

Learn more about CC licenses...


Do you have a copyright question?