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Copyright & Fair Use: Copyright Basics

Learn the basics of copyright law, especially as it is applied to videos, images, and published documents in a university setting..

What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) to authors. The owner of copyright has the exclusive right to do and authorize the following:

  • To reproduce the work;
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
  • To distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  • To prohibit other persons from using the work without permission;
  • To perform the work publicly.

Copyright protection covers both published and unpublished works as well as out-of-print materials. In the United States, all works are presumed to be copyright - and that includes anything published to the web.

Facts, ideas, procedures, processes, systems, concepts, principles or discoveries cannot be copyrighted. However, some of these other forms of intellectual property can be protected by patent, trademark, or trade secret laws.

Copyright protection currently lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. If there is more than one author copyright protection lasts for the life of the last author's death plus 70 years.

How Long is this Copyrighted?

Managing Your Copyright

If you are an author looking for assistance with managing or negotiating your copyright, we recommend reviewing Madison's Managing Your Copyright page.

University of Wisconsin - Superior