What is copyright?
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors of “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. An original work of authorship is a work that is independently created by a human author and possesses at least some minimal degree of creativity. A work is “fixed” when it is captured (either by or under the authority of an author) in a sufficiently permanent medium such that the work can be perceived, reproduced, or communicated for more than a short time.
In order to be copyrightable, a work must be:
What is protected?
What is not protected:
Copyright is automatic!
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.
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.
For works published earlier, or published under special circumstances, see Copyright Term and the Public Domain from the Cornell Copyright Information Center.