Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution states,
"The Congress shall have power... to promote the progress of science
and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the
exclusive right to their respective writings and discovers.
The purpose of this protection is to balance between
protection of intellectual property and the rights of those seeking to
access information. Copyrights can apply to all concrete forms
(written, recorded, digital) of expression. This protection applies
whether the work is registered or not. By law, all works created
since January 1, 1978 are copyrighted unless otherwise noted.
Copyrights protect how ideas are presented, not the actual
idea. Disney, for example, owns copyrights on all Mickey Mouse
cartoons and other uses. They do not own rights on all talking, cute
mice. Facts cannot be copyrighted, but the way they are presented or
explained can be.
What can be copyrighted?
|Pantomimes and choreographic works|
|Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works|
|Motion pictures and other audiovisual works|
|Work not in fixed, tangible form of expression||
|Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or
designs; simple listings of ingredients or contents|
|Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts,
principles, discoveries, or devices|
|Works consisting entirely of information that is common
property and containing no original authorship|
The word "copyright" means the right to copy. By
law, the owner of a copyright has 6 rights:
This refers to making copies. When a file is downloaded from the
Web, it is being copied. Printing also is a form a copy.
Modifications, alterations, or use of anotherís ideas is also
protected. Changing format, posting from a book to a Web, and
copying someone elseís HTML all fall under adaptation.
of copyright control how their work is distributed to the public.
Electronic transmissions or simply posting work on the Web is
right to perform a work in public is covered by copyrights.
Digital broadcasts, other transmissions, and live renditions are
Owners of copyrights also control how their work is shown to the
public. Anything transmitted digitally is considered a public
Transmissions of Sound Recordings. Copyright owners have the
right to control how their audio recordings are distributed.
Sending or downloading an audio file over the Internet is a digital
By law, people need
permission from the copyright holder to reproduce, adapt, distribute,
publicly perform, publicly display, or digitally transmit audio sound
recordings unless the intended use falls under a special category called fair
Owners of copyrights may
sell or license any of these 6 rights permanently or by terms that are
agreed upon. Rights are often sold to publishers. A copyright
owner may allow their work to fall into the public domain, which means
that no restrictions apply.
Copyrights now last for
the life of the author plus 70 years. The Digital Millennium
Copyright Act (1998) adds prohibitions on circumvention of protection
technology. It also limits the liability of online service
providers, and addresses digital preservation and distant
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