Copyright FAQ

What is Copyright?

Copyright refers to a Federal law that protects work created by you or anyone else from being copied, changed, or used without permission. In other words, when you create something like a story, photograph, poem, song, or drawing, it belongs to you and others have to get your permission to use it. 

What is "Fair Use"?

“Fair Use” refers to a set of guidelines that allows you to use parts of copyrighted works for educational purposes, such as writing a report or making a multimedia presentation. The basic guidelines for “Fair Use” are covered on the Fair Use page.

Do I always have to follow the copyright laws and guidelines?

You may avoid the copyright issue by simply writing or emailing the person who created the work and asking permission to use it. Getting written permission like this is always the safest way to make sure your report or presentation is legal, and it's easy, thanks to the convenience of email.

How can I make sure my own work is copyrighted?

Your work is automatically copyrighted. You may indicate this by putting a notice in your work - something like “Copyright 2014, My Name” (using your own name, of course).

Can I register my copyrighted work?

You may register your creation with the U.S. Copyright Office, but you would probably only want to do this if you planned on selling it or if you want to display or present it in public (it costs money to register a work). Another form of registration is a Creative Commons License. Please visit the Creative Commons website for more information.

How long does a copyright last?  

A work is protected until 70 years after the death of its creator. An exception to this is that a work that was published before 1923 is currently not protected by copyright. Another way of saying that something is not protected by copyright is that it is “in the public domain”.

See Licensing & Copyright Library Guide for Instructors, Librarians, and Students