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The sections in this Guide are designed to inform the TWU community on Copyright, Fair Use and related topics. It is not intended as legal advice nor is it meant to replace the advice of legal counsel.
Copyright protection exists from the moment a work is created in a fixed, tangible form of expression. The copyright immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author, or those deriving their rights through the author, can rightfully claim copyright. In the case of works made for hire, the employer—not the writer—is considered the author.
The physical ownership of an item such as a book, painting, manuscript or CD is not the same as owning the copyright to the work embodied in that item.
Under the First Sale Doctrine (Section 109 of the Copyright Act), ownership of a physical copy of a copyright-protected work permits lending, reselling, disposing, etc., of the item. However, it does not permit reproducing the material, publicly displaying or performing it, or engaging in any of the acts reserved for the copyright holder. Why? Because the transfer of the physical copy does not transfer the copyright holder's rights to the work. Including an attribution on a copied work (for example, putting the author's name on it) does not eliminate the need to obtain the copyright holder's consent. To use copyrighted materials lawfully, you must secure permission from the applicable copyright holders or a copyright licensing agent.
"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." -- U.S. Copyright Office
The term of copyright protection depends upon the date of creation. A work created on or after January 1, 1978, is ordinarily protected by copyright from the moment of its creation until 70 years after the author's death.
For works made for hire, anonymous works and pseudonymous works (unless the author's identity is revealed in Copyright Office records), the duration of copyright is 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.
For works created, published or registered before January 1, 1978, or for more detailed information, you may wish to refer to the Public Domain tab of this guide or request Circular 15 ( "Renewal of Copyright"), Circular 15a ("Duration of Copyright") and Circular 15t ("Extension of Copyright Terms") from the U.S. Copyright Office Web site.
Credit and thanks to Butler University Libraries and Access Services who created the original version of this copyright guide adapted for use at TWU. Additionally, thanks to the following Universities for use of some of their copyright documentation: Stanford, San Jose State, Texas, Columbia, Michigan, Georgia, Cornell, Harvard, Xavier, Bucknell, and North Carolina.