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Section 106 of U.S. Copyright Law

Copyright owners have the exclusive right to:

  • To reproduce the work
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work
  • To distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
  • To perform the work publicly
  • To display the copyrighted work publicly
  • In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of digital audio transmission
  • In the case of a “work of visual art” the author has certain rights of attribution and integrity

Duration of Copyright

In general, for works created on or after January 1, 1978, the term of copyright is the life of the author plus seventy years after the author’s death. If the work is a joint work with multiple authors, the term lasts for 70 years after the last surviving author’s death. For works made for hire and anonymous or pseudonymous works, the duration of copyright is 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter. 

When the copyright term in a work expires, the work loses copyright protection and enters the public domain.  

What is Protected by Copyright?

In the beginnings, copyright law was intended to cover only books. In the 19th century the law was expanded to include maps, charts, engravings, prints, musical compositions, dramatic works, photographs, paintings, drawings and sculptures. Motion pictures, computer programs, sound recordings, dance and architectural works became protected by copyright in the 20th century.

Copyright protection fall under title 17, U.S. Code and covers "original works of authorship."

So what makes a work original?

  1. Fixity - not the idea but the fixed expression or the manifestation of the idea
  2. Originality
  3. Minimal creativity

What is Not Protected by Copyright?

  • Works for which the copyright has expired
  • Works federal government employees produced within the scope of their employment
  • Works clearly and explicitly donated to the public domain
  • Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression (for example, choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded, or spontaneous  speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded)
  • Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents
  • Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration
  • Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and contains no original authorship (for example, standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources)

Framework for Copyright Analysis

Questions that form a framework for copyright analysis

  1. Is the work protected by copyright? Use the Copyright Slider.
  2. Is there a license that covers my use? For example, a Creative Commons license or license that accompanies a library subscription to a database.
  3. Is my use covered by fair use? Use the following four factors to make a fair use determination:
    • purpose of the use
    • nature of the material being used
    • amount of the material being used
    • effect on the market
  4. Do I need permission from the copyright owner for my use?