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Copyright Guide for Students : Copyright


Copyright is a legal protection automatically provided to creative works such as books, music, or art. 

According to the law, only the person who controls the copyright (originally the creator) is allowed to:

  • reproduce the work
  • distribute copies of the work to the public
  • perform or display the work publicly
  • create derivative works; in other words, to create new works based closely on the original (such as a translation of a book from one language into another, or making a book into a movie)

The creator, or person the creator transfers their rights to, is said to "control copyright" in the work and sometimes described as the copyright owner.

When someone other than the copyright owner uses the work in one of these protected ways without permission (or other justification under copyright law), it is called copyright infringement.

How can I re-use other sources without infringing on copyright?

There are limits on copyright protection in order to ensure that the public is able to access and re-use creative works in important ways. These limits mean you can re-use sources that are in the public domain or that qualify as fair use.

In addition, copyright owners can give permission for other people to re-use their work under certain circumstances. They may give the work a sort-of blanket permission using a license such as Creative Commons or grant permission to a specific person for a specific use.

What about copyright for things created outside of the U.S.?

There is no one international copyright law and it can make things more complicated when dealing with materials published outside of the U.S., but it's a little easier because of the Berne Convention. As of September, 2017 are 174 countries included in this treaty (including the United States) and they all agree to give the same protections to the works created outside of their country as they do to those created within their country.

In other words, if you're using a work within the U.S. and concerned with abiding by U.S. law, you can generally use works created in any of those 174 counties the same way you do locally-created resources.

For more information: Copyright