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The purpose of this guide is to assist the Liberty University community in understanding the basic concepts of the Copyright Law of the United States and how it impacts the use of copyrighted materials by students, faculty, and staff. This is not legal advice and should not be considered as such. We are here to help you make informed decisions. If you have questions that are not covered in this guide, please email firstname.lastname@example.org assistance.
What is copyright?
Copyright gives an author/creator exclusive rights to original items they create that are "fixed in a tangible medium of expression," meaning that the items are recorded, written, in a physical state, or saved as a computer file. An exception for ownership would be "works made for hire" resources.
These exclusive rights include:
making derivative works
selling or transferring ownership
transmitting an audio work publicly
There are limitations to exclusive rights such as fair use, library exceptions, first sale doctrine, face-to-face teaching, TEACH Act, and exceptions for blindness and other disabilities.
What types of works are protected?
Original, creative works that are "fixed in a tangible medium of expression" are automatically protected by copyright. These works include:
works of art
Items that are NOT protected by copyright:
works in the public domain
simple listings such as a table of contents
names, titles, and short phrases
symbols or designs
How to use works protected by copyright?
There are certain instances in which you can legally and ethically use copyrighted works. These include:
uses for which you have permission from the copyright holder
Please visit the appropriate tabs on this guide for more detailed information. You can also visit the Copyright Basics guide published by the United States Copyright Office for more details.
How long is the work protected by copyright?
Copyright expires after a specified period of time. Once copyright expires, the materials become part of the public domain and can be used freely.
Works created after 1977 are protected for the life of the author plus 70 years.
Works published between 1925-1977 may still be protected, depending on the date of publication, type of authorship, presence of a copyright notice, and whether or not the copyright was renewed.
Works published before 1926 are in the public domain and can be used freely.
The Copyright Information Center provides a detailed chart for determining the copyright status of works based on their date of publication and other considerations.
Copyright varies by country, and some countries have created international agreements. Please contact email@example.com for more information on international copyright and public domain.
Where can I find more detailed information?
Copyright.gov Circulars are published by the U.S. Copyright Office to provide up-to-date information to the general audience.
First Sale Doctrine refers to the rights of an owner of a copyrighted work. The owner of the work can sell, lend, or share their copy without having to gain permission. This is similar to purchasing a paperback that you can sell, lend, or share.