What is Copyright?
Copyright is a property right established by the Constitution, designed to promote the progress of science and art by ensuring that the author of information and/or creative works may reap the benefits of his or her original work for a specific period of time. Works of authorship include the following: literary works; musical compositions including the lyrics, if any; dramatic works; pantomime and choreographic works; pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; motion pictures and other audio-visual works; sound recordings; and electronic information.
Copyright laws give the author/owner of original works exclusive right to do and to authorize any of the following:
When using copyrighted materials, the following must be considered: 1) whether the material is copyright-protected and to what extent, and 2) if there are any exceptions to the use.
Copyright Protection & Public Domain*
Once a work has taken a tangible form it is considered copyright-protected although not necessarily copyright registered. In these cases, it is assumed that all rights are reserved. The creator of the work has the option of giving up certain rights. This may be done to encourage sharing. These works have some or no rights reserved.
In 1998, Congress passed the "Digital Millennium Copyright Act," intended to bring copyright law into the digital age, and the "Term Extension Act," which harmonized U.S. and European copyright standards. As a result, there are some significant changes to copyright protection, especially with regards to the public domain. As a result of the "Term Extension Act," some works received a 95-year copyright term and did not come into the public domain in January 2000 as had been anticipated under previous law.
The "Term Extension Act" has extended the years of copyright protection and has complicated the process of determining when a work comes into the public domain. In general:
* Taken from "When Works Pass Into the Public Domain" by Laura Gasaway. <http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/public-d.htm>
Visit http://www.librarycopyright.net/digitalslider/ to use and interactive Public Domain slider to determine the eligibility of a work.
Once copyright protection is established for your intended purpose, decide whether there are any exceptions for the use. These may include licensed resources or freely accessible online versions that can be linked to, uses classified as fair use, or circumstances that are provided for under the TEACH Act.