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Copyright Law

Copyright refers to the right of a creator (an author, painter, inventor, composer, etc.) to maintain control over his or her creative works.
copyright symbol 
The Copyright symbol
According to U.S. Copyright Law, any original work, including books, music, movies, videos, computer programs, artwork and designs, and patents, is legally protected. This protection extends to both published and unpublished works. In other words, anything that is created is automatically covered under the copyright law, even if no paperwork is filed with the U.S. Copyright Office.


Only the author or owner of the copyrighted work can give permission to use, copy, distribute, or display it.

According to the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976*:

  Copyright provides the owner of copyright with the exclusive right to: 
  • Reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords
  • Prepare derivative works based upon the work
  • Distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership or by rental, lease, or lending
  • Perform the work publicly if it is a literary, musical, dramatic, or choreographic work; a pantomime; or a motion picture or other audiovisual work
  • Display the work publicly if it is a literary, musical, dramatic, or choreographic work; a pantomime; or a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work. This right also applies to the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work.
  • Perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission if the work is a sound recording


Before you distribute, copy, display or perform any copyrighted work, you must get permission from the copyright holder, usually the original author.


*"Copyright Basics." U.S. Copyright Office, Library of Congress, December 2019,  Accessed July 6, 2020. 


Chapter 9 — Page 2