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Scholarly Publishing & Communication

Guide to resources and tools related to scholarly publications, including information on copyright, open access publishing agreements, publication services, and citation rates.

What is copyright? Why have copyright?

Disclaimer: The following information does not constitute legal advice.
  •  The main purpose of U.S. intellectual property laws (copyright, patents, and trademarks) is to reward authors and inventors for their creativity while balancing public interest in using those products
  • Copyright law confers a set of exclusive rights to authors for their works for a limited time.
  • The  U.S. Constitution established copyright law in Article I, Section 8: "Congress shall have the power...To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries“
  • Copyright law allows authors to financially benefit from their creative works within a limited time frame, after which their works fall into the public domain.
  • While works are under copyright protection, the public may use them under certain conditions: with permission from the owner or without permission if the use qualifies for an exception (example: educational fair use or the work is in the public domain (i.e, not protected by copyright)

Exceptions to copyright owner rights

The law carves out a set of exceptions to owner rights that allow the public to use works while they are under copyright protection. These are the exceptions:

•Section 107         Fair Use
•Section 108         Library copying and ILL
•Section 109(a)    First sale
•Section 110(1)    Display and perform works in f2f classroom teaching
•Section 110(2)    Display and perform works in distance learning 
•Section 121         Special formats for the blind or otherwise disabled

What are the copyright(s) of authors?

Title 17 Section 106 U.S. Copyright Law gives authors the following set of rights for a time-limited duration

§ 106 . Exclusive rights in copyrighted works38

Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:

Create derivative works 
Display work publicly
Perform work publicly
Perform work publicly by digital audio transmission (sound recordings)

Criteria for copyright

  • Criteria for copyright protection in the United States must meet the following conditions, and is easier to obtain relative to copyright protection in other countries. Upon fixing a work in a tangible medium of expression, the law confers authorip status as your work must be:

                 Minimally Creative


                 Fixed in a tangible medium

  • Copyright formality (registering with the Copyright Office)

              © Notice & registration was dropped for works published after 

                  March 1, 1989 – they receive automatic copyright protection

  • Registration with the US Copyright Office is not necessary for copyright protection, but gives a stronger case if filing an infringement case is anticipated

What works does copyright protect?

(a) Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories:

(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; and

(8) architectural works.

What IS NOT protected by copyright

Copyright law does not protect s such as facts, ideas, raw data. Section 102 of the Copyright Law provides a detailed list of things that copyright does not protect:

§ 102  (b)

In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

How long does copyright protection last?

The general rule (there are many exceptions): life time of the author + 70 years (US works, published or unpublished).