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Copyright Resources

Copyright Basics

Copyright is a form of protection provided by U.S. law to creators of original works of authorship. This protection incentivizes creation and enables a limited period for financial compensation. An original work of authorship is copyrighted the moment it is fixed in a tangible form of expression—be it paper or digital, published or unpublished.

The following types of works are protected by copyright:

  1. literary works
  2. musical works, including any accompanying words
  3. dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  4. pantomimes and choreographic works
  5. pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  6. motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  7. sound recordings
  8. architectural works

A copyright owner has the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  • reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords
  • prepare derivative works based upon the work
  • distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
  • perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works. In the case of sound recordings by means of a digital audio transmission
  • display the work publicly, 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

The current term of copyright for an original work of authorship is the life of the author plus 70 years. 

(U.S. Copyright Office. Copyright Basics

Key FAQs about Copyright

If there is no © symbol on a work, is it okay to use without permission?

An original creative work is copyrighted as soon as it is set in a tangible medium. The copyright symbol is not required to designate copyright status. Assume a work is copyrighted until you can determine otherwise. 

If I'm using a copyrighted work for educational purposes, that's Fair Use, right? 

Not necessarily. Fair Use is an interpretation of your use of copyrighted material made on a case-by-case basis using a Four Factor analysis. Each case will be different, even in an educational setting. Read more

Where can I find images that I can use without permission? 

There are several possible sources of images that may be usable without permission. These include your own images, UMMS-owned images, public domain images, and images labeled or licensed for re-use by their owners. Read more. 

Download the full FAQ sheet! (Originally prepared by Barbara Ingrassia, 2013).

Copyright Resources