Part of United States Intellectual Property law (which protects creations of human intellect as opposed to physical property), copyright affords creators certain exclusive rights over their works for a limited period of time. In the United States protection is automatic and does not require any formal registration - although registration can be beneficial to the copyright holder in cases of infringement (i.e. copyright violation.)
Copyright protects the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. So anyone may write a paper on the topic of wind turbines, but only the paper would be considered an expression of the idea and would be protected by copyright.
Copyright protection applies to works of expression that are original (not copies - exact or derivative - of other works), creative (display a minimum degree of creativity, unlike a simple A-Z list), fixed in a tangible medium (in a form that could be copied or reproduced). Examples include:
Copyright protection does not apply in the following cases:
The general rule for works created in or after 1978 is:
Works for which copyright has expired enter the Public Domain where they are freely available for use.
Determining whether or not a specific work is protected requires consideration of several factors including the identity of copyright holder, creation and/or publication date, and the circumstances under which the work was created. Cornell University's Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States is a useful tool in determining if a work is still under copyright. Or AskUS for help!
Creators (authors, artists, songwriters, photographers, etc.) are the default copyright holders of the works they create. Under certain circumstances creators may relinquish all or some of their rights, including:
Copyright holders have the following rights under the law:
The library provides consultations, workshops, department visits, presentations, and guides on the following copyright-related topics: