The U.S. Copyright Office defines "copyright" as:
[T]he author's (creators of all sorts such as writers, photographers, artists, film producers, composers, and programmers) exclusive right to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, and publicly perform and display their works. These rights may be transferred or assigned in whole or in part in writing by the author. Unless otherwise agreed in writing, work created by an employee is usually owned by the employer.
"Original works of authorship" are copyrightable. §102 of the Copyright Act includes:
The following are NOT copyrightable:
For more on works not protected by copyright, see U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 33.
Registration is not required for copyright protection—any original work "fixed in any tangible medium" is protected by copyright. In addition to establishing a public record of a copyright claim, registration offers several other statutory advantages:
For more on copyright registration, see U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 2.
The Intellectual Property Clause of the Constitution states:
[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 Discoveries.
U.S. Const. art. 1, § 8, cl. 8. For more on the origins and scope of copyright, see the Constitution Annotated.
Subject to §§ 107-112, the owner of copyright has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:
The TEACH Act enables accredited, nonprofit educational institutions to use copyright protected materials in distance education—including uploading to websites and by other digital means—without permission from the copyright owner and without payment of royalties.
For more on compilations and legislative history, see our Federal Legislative Research Guide.
Title 37 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) contains patent, trademark, and copyright regulations. Regulations promulgated by the U.S. Copyright Office are contained in Chapter II (eCFR | Westlaw | Lexis). The Copyright Office's website also contains Open Rulemaking Proceedings.
For more on where to locate the CFR and the Federal Register in print and online, see our Federal Regulation Research Guide.
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