Scholarly Communication@WSU

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

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 This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.”

From the U.S. Copyright Office Circular 1: Copyright Basics [PDF]

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

For more information, see the U.S. Copyright Office Circular 21: Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians [PDF]

Creative Commons

About Creative Commons

Creative Commons (CC) is a nonprofit corporation whose goal is to help overcome legal obstacles to the sharing of knowledge and creativity consistent with the rules of copyright. CC provides free licenses and other legal tools to mark scholarly (and other) works so they can be easily shared or remixed within the constraints set by the creator.

CC licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright to balance the creator's needs with their desire to share their work.

Types of Licenses

There are six different CC licenses that can be applied to a work. A common example in academia is the Attribution-Non Commercial License (CC BY-NC). This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon the licensed work; although any new works must acknowledge the original creator(s) and must be non-commercial, they don't have to license their derivative works on the same terms. The logo below accompanies the license and provides a link to its terms:

Creative Commons License

Learn more about CC licenses