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What Is Copyright?

"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'..." (U.S. Copyright Office, Copyright Basics).

What Can Be Copyrighted?

books, articles, photographs, poems, plays, songs, and more

"...including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works" (U.S. Copyright Office, Copyright Basics).

Works must be:

Fixed - that is, fixed in a tangible medium, like a piece of paper or video recording: an idea alone cannot be copyrighted.

Original - though it is not necessary for a work to be completely original: existing works may be combined, adapted, or transformed in new ways that make them eligible for copyright protection.

Minimally creative - and only a slight degree of creativity is all that is required to be eligible for protection.

What Can't Be Copyrighted?

forms, facts, names, slogans, words, ideas, plus certain types of works, such as:

Rights Granted to Copyright holders

  1. Reproduction - the right to make copies of the work
  2. Distribution - the right to sell or otherwise distribute copies of the work
  3. Adaptation - the right to prepare new, derivative, works based on the protected work
  4. Performance and display - the right to perform or display the work (such as a stage play, movie, or painting) in public

For Further Information

CAVEAT: Copyright law is complicated and the best a page like this can do is to introduce you to basic concepts and the terminology related to copyright.