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Copyright and Fair Use: Basics

Copyright Graffiti

How Do I Know When My Work Is Copyrighted and For How Long?

Once you create an original work and you “fix” it in a "tangible medium," it automatically is copyrighted.

Copyright protection lasts for a very long time.  The basic terms are:

Life of the creator PLUS 70 years

Corporations/Works for Hire:
95 years from publication OR 120 years from creation of the work, whichever is lesser.

What Is Copyright?

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 This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.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 applies to nearly all intellectual and creative works, including, but not limited to: books, journals, magazines, photographs, art, music, sound recordings, computer programs, websites, movies, dance choreography, architecture, blog postings, images you post online and more.

What Rights Do I Have As a Copyright Holder?

Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  • Reproduce the work
  • Prepare derivative works based upon the work
  • Distribute copies 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
  • 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 audio visual work
  • Perform the work publicly (in the case of sound recordings*) by means of a digital audio transmission
  • And, the right to assign, give away, share, sell, lend, lease, bequeath, and negotiate any and all of these rights

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