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Copyright Law

  • Originates from the Constitution
  • Protects expression
  • Promotes science and the useful arts
  • Evolves with new forms of expression

Copyright is a form of intellectual property that provides authors of creative expression control over how their works are used by others. Copyright is established automatically upon creation of works meeting the eligibility requirements and provides a set of exclusive rights to the owner, including the right to make and distribute copies of a work.

U.S. copyright law is federal, not state law. Under the United States Constitution, Congress is given the power "to promote the progress of science and useful arts" by granting authors, for limited times, exclusive rights to their writings. Over the years, "authors" has been expanded and copyright now protects a wide variety of expressions.

Do you really need to delve into the law?
Quite simply, yes. Copyright is everywhere and you probably come into contact with copyright issues a lot more often than you think. Do you send and read email? Browse the web? Watch TV? Listen to the radio? Use a photocopier in the library? Check out the day's events on your FarSide® calendar? All of these activities involve accessing or creating copyrighted works. What you or others may do with those works is governed by copyright law. You don't need to learn to recite every section of copyright law, but you do need to know the basic concepts to know how copyright protects your works and how to avoid getting into trouble for using someone else's work.

For more information:
The U.S. Copyright Office website provides information on copyright law, pending legislation, and copyright registration procedures.

The following sections include excerpts from copyright law and links are provided for those interested in reading the full text of a particular section of the law. The full text of the entire copyright law can be found at Title 17 of the United States Code.

This topic includes sections on: DMCA, Fair Use, TEACH Act, International Copyright Law



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