Skip to Main Content

Appalachian Copyright Academy: Copyright

Definitions and Overview

What is Copyright?

Copyright is defined as "a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for 'original works of  authorship'" according to the United States Copyright Office. As long as the work is fixed in a tangible medium then this protection is available to both published and unpublished works.

The US Copyright Act lists six rights exclusive to the copyright holder. The copyright holder has the right:

  1. To make copies or recordings of their work
  2. To create new works based on their original works
  3. To sell, rent, lease, lend, or give away copies or recordings of their work
  4. To publicly perform their work
  5. To publicly display their work, including still images from movies or other audiovisual works
  6. In the case of music or other sound recordings, to perform their work through a digital audio transmission, such as playing it on a radio station

(Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 106)  

What is protected?

What does copyright protect?

In order for a work to be be protected, the work must be original and recorded. Categories should be viewed broadly for the purpose of registering work.

Types of works protected under copyright include:

  • literary works
  • musical works
  • dramatic works
  • pantomimes and choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works

Copyright and Fair Use Animation by Common Sense Education

Additional Resources

Here are some additional resources to check out:

Copyright Basics - U.S. Copyright Office

Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians - U.S. Copyright Office

Owning and Using Scholarship: An IP Handbook for Teachers and Researchers - Kevin L. Smith, J.D., Director of the Office of Copyright and Scholarly Communication at Duke University

Copyright Term and the Public Domain - Cornell University

Public Domain Handbook - University of California at Berkeley Law School 

What is not protected?

What does copyright not protect?

Not everything is protected under copyright law. Here are some of the things not protected under copyright law:

  • facts, ideas
  • procedures, methods, systems, processes
  • works that are not fixed in a tangible form
  • titles, names, short phrases, or slogans
  • familiar symbols or designs
  • mere variations of lettering or coloring
  • mere listings of ingredients or contents
  • works of the United States government
  • works that have passed into the public domain

Head of Scholarly Communications