The information presented in this guide is intended for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice or guidance. If you have specific legal questions pertaining to the University of Arizona, please contact the Office of the General Counsel.
Copyright protection in the U.S. exists automatically from the moment an original work of authorship is fixed in a tangible medium. Registration of copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office is voluntary. There are cases in which registration is recommended, but it is never required.
In order to be copyrightable, a work must be:
Original (minimally creative)
Fixed (written down or recorded in some fashion)
Not of a type that is excluded from copyright protection
What is protected?
Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works (e.g. paintings, drawings, carvings, photographs, clothing designs)
Architectural works (buildings as well as blueprints, drawings, diagrams, models)
Sound recordings (songs, music, spoken word, sounds, other recordings)
Audiovisual works (movies, animation, TV programs, videogames)
Pantomimes and choreographic works
Dramatic works and accompanying music (plays and musicals)
What is not protected:
Works that have not been fixed in a tangible medium of expression
Titles, names, short phrases and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; listings of ingredients or contents
Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries or devices
Works that consist entirely of information that are natural or self-evident facts, containing no original authorship (such as a phone book or standard calendar)
Works created by the U.S. Government
Works for which copyright has expired (works in the public domain)
How long does copyright protection last?
For works published in 1978 and later, copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. The copyright term for corporations (works for hire) is 120 years from creation or 95 years from publication, whichever is later.