Landman Library

Copyright Basics

Get started on understanding copyright


Copyright Defined

What it is and the significance of the author versus the owner

Copyright is the right of the author of a work or its owner to control any copies or usage of that work.

  • Copyright is a right protected by federal statute.
  • The author of a work may be an artist, a composer, a lyricist, a playwright. They may even be 2 or more people. The author is the owner unless a specific arrangement names or makes someone else the owner. Read more about ownership: Copyright Basics (p. 2).
  • An owner may be another individual, an organization, or a publisher. Read more about transferring ownership: Copyright Basics (p. 6).
  • Copies may be reproductions or modifications (derivative work). Read more about reproduction: Copyright Basics (p. 1).


What Can Be Copyrighted

A few explicit conditions according to US Copyright Law

An Original Work of Authorship

  • However the Fair Use Provision permits for some degree of appropriation from other people’s work. Read more: Copyright Basics (p. 1).

A Literary, Dramatic, Musical, Artistic Work

  • This is a sample list of common types of works.
  • Intangible works, words, lists, ideas are not protected by copyright.
  • Read more: Copyright Basics (p. 3).
  • Some other kinds of work may be patented or trademarked.

A Work in Fixed Form

  • It could be handwritten, as long as it’s fixed.
  • It could be digitized, as long as it’s fixed.
  • Read more: Copyright Basics (p. 2).

It’s Not Mere Information or Common Knowledge


Copyright Protection

Obtaining it is a lot less complex than you think

  • A Copyright Symbol (©) is Not Required. It was at one time and still is for certain older works, but not anymore. Read more: Copyright Basics (p. 4).
  • Copyright protection is automatic as soon as the author of the work establishes a fixed form. When the author puts a work to paper, saves it in an electronic file, pushes it out to the web, etc., that individual has copyright protection.
  • While use of the copyright symbol is not required, it is a visible reminder that a given work is copyrighted and puts potential infringers on notice.
  • Publication is Not Required.


Copyright Registration

Not required, but beneficial

  • Registration is Not Required.
  • Registration is a benefit when the owner of a work wishes to enforce or protect their copyright. It is a prerequisite for filing a lawsuit for copyright infringement.
  • The owner of a work may register a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office by submitting an application with the appropriate fee and approved copies of the work.
  • Read more about registration: Copyright Basics (p. 7).