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An easy to understand guide on Copyright.

Copyright Info.

Courtesy of Copyright Clearance; used with permission of course!

Copyright law is a sub discipline of intellectual property law and is governed by Title 17 of the United States Code - The Copyright Act.. Title 17 is a federal law and applies to all States. It is meant to protect an author’s (or creator’s) rights to his or her work from unauthorized use by others, while allowing for the promotion of creativity and learning.

Ordinarily, a claim for copyright infringement arises when an encroachment upon one or more of the following exclusive rights belonging to the author or creator occurs:

  • The right to reproduce/copy the work
  • The right to prepare derivative works
  • The right to distribute copies of the work by sale or lease or other transfer of ownership
  • The right to publicly perform the work
  • The right to publicly display the work
  • The right to perform audio works publicly by digital means

These exclusive rights, however, are subject to certain exceptions set out in the Copyright Act. Some of these exceptions are: Fair Use (§107 of the Act), preservation by libraries and archives (§ 108 of the Act), and performance and display of works in an educational setting (§110 of the Act). Please visit the other sections of this Guide to learn more about these and other exceptions.

Not all classes of works are entitled to copyright protection. See the (nonexhaustive) table below:

Copyrightable Works

Non-Copyrightable Works

Literary Works

Works not fixed in a tangible form (e.g. ideas)

Musical works (including accompanying lyrics)

Short phrases, slogans, commercial symbols/colors (however, these may be protected by trademark law)

Dramatic works (including accompanying music)

Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration

Choreographic works and pantomimes (must be fixed in a tangible form, e.g. recorded or notated)

Works consisting entirely of common data (e.g. calendar, government weights/measures charts) or entirely of facts (although creative assembly of facts can be subject to copyright, the facts themselves cannot)

Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works

Spontaneous speeches that have not been formally fixed into a tangible form

Motion pictures and other A/V works

Spontaneous musical or choreographic works

Sound recordings

Federal government documents (mostly)

Architectural plans


Computer programs


(adapted in part from the U.S. Copyright Office "Copyright Basics" circular)

Copyright protection does not last forever. For new works, protection begins with creation of the work and lasts 70 years after the date of the author-creator. At that time, the work passes into the public domain. For older works, cessation of copyright protection and passage into the public domain depends on a variety of factors. See this chart or the Public Domain tab of this guide for more information or use the Public Domain Slider to help determine the copyright status of a work that is first published in the United States. 

Received information from UF Copyright LibGuide