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What is Copyright?
Copyright is one of four basic protections of intellectual property. Copyright gives the creator of a piece of literature, a work of art, or a work that conveys information or ideas the right to decide how their work can be used, and by whom.
This guide is informational and not intended as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an intellectual property attorney.
Additional Resources for Faculty
What is Protected?
Copyight allows authors and creators the rights to
- create derivative works
from Copyright Information Center at Cornell University
U.S. Copyright Law Glossary of Key Terms
Understanding our nation’s copyright law is important, but also complex. This glossary of key copyright terms is a resource to help promote informed discussions about copyright policy.
What Can or Cannot be Copyrighted?
Anything that is tangible and original can be copyrighted. So a lecture or verbal exchange that is not recorded or written down cannot be copyrighted. To be protected by copyright something must be:
- Fixed in time and space. The way it is fixed does not matter. It can be on a piece of paper, posted on line, stored on a phone.
- Original. Everything from novels to photographs to emails are all considered to be originals. The entire work does not need to be original. Works can be combined, adapted or transformed in new ways that make them original.
- Minimally creative, especially if it is an adaptation or a transformation.
Certain types of material considered to be in the public domain cannot be copyrighted. That includes:
- Words, names, slogan, though they may have protection under trademark law
- Government documents
- Works where copyright has expired