Did You Know...
Neither a copyright notice (©), nor registration with the copyright office is necessary for a work to be protected by copyright.
Copyright is automatically granted to an author once the work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression.
- What are my rights as a copyright owner?
- What does copyright protect?
- How long does copyright last?
- What is the public domain?
- Should I register my work?
- How can I share my work?
- What is a work made for hire?
- What is "fixed in a tangible medium of expression?"
Copyright law grants owners the exclusive right to:
- Reproduce their work
- Prepare derivative works
- Distribute copies of their work
- Publicly perform their work
- Publicly display their work
- Publicly perform a sound recording by digital means
Copyright protects original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. This includes:
- Literary Works & Dramatic Works
- Musical Works & Sound Recordings
- Pictorial, Graphic & Sculptural Works
- Motion Pictures & Other Audiovisual Works
- Pantomimes & Other Choreographic Works
- Architectural Works
Copyright does not protect:
- Titles, names, short phrases, slogans
- Facts, news and discoveries
- Works created by the U.S. government
- Ideas, procedures, methods, systems or processes (but these may be patentable)
- Works lacking "a modicum of originality" (e.g. a phone book in alphabetical order)
The current term of copyright is life of the author plus 70 years.
After that time, when the copyright expires, the work enters the public domain and is freely available for use by anyone.
The public domain refers to material not protected by copyright. Anyone can use material in the public domain without permission.
Some material, such as that created by an employee of the U.S. federal government, in their official capacity, automatically enters the public domain upon creation. However, most material enters the public domain due to the expiration of the copyright term.
Generally, any material published in the United States prior to 1923 or published in a foreign country prior to 1909 is in the public domain and can be used without permission.
Copyright ownership is automatic and no longer requires registration. However, there are benefits to registration:
- Registration establishes a public record of your copyright claim
- The Copyright Office will deposit a copy of your work with the Library of Congress
- Registration is required before you can file a suit for copyright infringement
- Registration within 3 months of publication allows a copyright owner to ask for statutory damages and attorney's fees in an infringement suit
If you'd like to register your work, see the Copyright Office website for more information.
You may wish to share your work with other colleagues in your field. You may even want to share your work as widely as possible. There are many ways in which to share your work:
- Creative Commons: The Creative Commons allows enables authors and creators to allow others to make certain uses of their work without asking for permission. The Creative Commons licenses are based on the idea that creators can keep some of their rights while choosing to share the rest.
- Personal Web Pages: You can post articles or links to your research from your personal web page. However, you must make sure your publisher author agreements allow for this type of scholarly sharing.
- Open Access Journals: Open access journals are freely available on the Internet and do not charge for access to their materials. By publishing in an open access journal, you can ensure that your research will be openly available to your colleagues and students. For more information on Open Access, please see our Open Access Guide or our page on OA at Emory.
- Subject or Discipline Repositories: Many disciplines and research areas have online repositories where you can deposit data, abstracts, and pre- and post-print versions of your articles. These repositories include PubMed Central for biomedical journal articles, arXiv for mathematics and physics articles, CogPrints for research in the cognitive sciences, RePEc for Economics research, and ICPSR for social science articles and data. Again, you must make sure you negotiate your author agreements to ensure you can share your work.
When an employee creates a work as part of his or her job responsibilities, the employer is typically considered the author and owns the copyright to the work.
Authors own the copyright to any work they create with a "modicum of creativity" in a fixed form - regardless of the fixed form. Examples of fixed forms include:
- Books and Articles
- Web pages
- Sound recordings