Understanding Copyright: A Guide for the CLU Campus Community

What is Copyright?

Copyright protects the published and unpublished works of authors of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual forms of expression such as digital works. Copyright aims to foster the creation of all forms of intellectual property or works of authorship by providing fair returns to creators and copyright owners and to curb unauthorized and uncompensated copying (Association of American Publishers, 2006, p. 3). Copyright protection falls under Title 17 of the U. S. Code to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including “fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of the copyright the exclusive right and to authorize others with permission of the author to:

  • Reproduce all or part of the work
  • Distribute copies (including digital channels such as the Internet)
  • Prepare new versions based on the original work
  • Perform and display the work publicly
    (Association of American Publishers, 2006, p. 5)

The Copyright Act protects original works of authorship. Under Section 102(a) specific categories of authorship include:

  • Literary works
  • Musical works, including any accompanying music
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic and sculptural works
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings and architectural works
  • Architectural works
    (Bonner, 2006, p. 3)

The following types expressions do not fall under copyright protection:

  • Titles, names, short phrases and slogans; familiar symbols or designs, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, mere listings of ingredients or contents
  • Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration
  • Certain works produced by government employees
  • Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship

For additional general information about copyright, read the CCC publication: Copyright Basics. An excellent Web site for copyright basics is offered through the United States Copyright Office.