What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of intellectual property protection given to the creators of original work. Copyright does not require publication or registration - it is automatically applied when an original work is created. Types of original works which are covered include literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works including computer software and architecture.   Copyright is not something that just applies to professionals - it applies to your original works too!

Copyright does not apply to:

  • facts, ideas (in the sense of having an idea or thought about something) and systems or processes
  • materials lacking in orginality
  • titles, name, short phrases/slogans, familiar symbols or designs (like a heart shape), number, weights and measures, calendars 
  • works created by federal government employees within the scope of their employment.

In the United States, copyright law generally gives the creator of an original work the exclusive right to:

  • Make and sell copies of the original work
  • Create new works based on the original work (example: make a movie out of a book)
  • Perform or display the work publically

This exclusive right exists for a limited amount of time:

  • For original works created after 1977, copyright lasts for 70 years past the death of the creator of a work (copyright passes to family/heirs)
  • For works created by corporations and anonymous works, copyright lasts for 95 years past publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.