Landman Library

Copyright Glossary

A glossary is a dictionary for a specific knowledge area.

These terms are used throughout The Copyright Desk's webpages.



all rights reserved  A phrase closely connected with Copyright which explains that the owner of a copyright can legally make any decisions about the use of a given work. The use of the words is not required by copyright law to prove legal protection. Read more: All Rights Reserved, A Copyright Relic @ Above the Law. See also no rights reserved and some rights reserved

attribution  Identification of the authorship of a work.

author  Throughout these webpages, “author” is used to refer to producers of many types of copyrighted works, not just written works. This broad use of the word follows the convention of the US Copyright Office which you can see right from the opening paragraph of this official PDF.

bright line  A clear divide between sides of an issue, such as compliance and infringement in copyright.



case law  Law that results from a court decision rather than through a legislative act. See also statutory law.

common knowledge  Information that members of the general public or a specialized group can possess so widely that it cannot receive copyright protection, e.g., what might be found across multiple textbooks.

Creative Commons  An organization that has developed a popular set of "copyright" licenses that are "some rights reserved" instead of "all rights reserved" which makes it unnecessary to seek or obtain copyright permissions for specific uses. See also no rights reserved and Public Domain. Read more. Go to

derivative work  A work that incorporates to some degree another work that is already protected by copyright. The producer of the derivation can only copyright the portion that is not already copyrighted. Examples include: language translations, rendering of an original work in another medium. Read details at

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)  The DMCA became federal law in 2000. A complicated piece of legislation which updated US Copyright Law, it addressed among other issues the creation of archival copies of digital works, non-circumvention of technology protections, and compliance with international copyright agreements. Read brief overview at The UCLA Online Institute for Cyberspace Law and Policy.

due diligence  Suitable investigative effort applied to avoid wrongdoing. With regard to copyright this can mean the effort of obtaining copyright permission or determining copyright ownership. Read the definition at

Fair Use  A provision of the U.S. Copyright Code that permits use of copyrighted material without explicit permission of the copyright owner under certain conditions. Read details.



infringement  The act of violating a copyright owner’s sole right to control presentation of a work.

license  A binding agreement that users must legally accept (such as by clicking on an Agree button on a digital platform) to use a work. In the case of copyright, a license can change what a prospective user can do with a work under it relative to copyright law, usually less but sometimes more. See also Creative Commons.

no rights reserved  The equivalent of Public Domain. See also all rights reserved and some rights reserved.

owner  An entity, such as an individual, group, or business that controls the copyright to a work. It may be the author unless they have given up their copyright, perhaps by contractual agreement. See also work made for hire.



permission  The right given by a copyright owner to use a work otherwise protected by copyright.

Public Domain  Public domain is a status that a created work can have that does not have copyright protection because it doesn’t comply or has fallen out of protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely. Read details at See also no rights reserved.

publish  This is the act of a copyright work’s owner to make it available to the general public either for sale or further distribution. When the work is physical, the work might be considered published both when the owner has printed it and made it available for sale. When the work is digital, the work might be considered published when it is shared on a public platform for an internet user to find and point other users to.

some rights reserved  A phrase used in these pages to describe licenses like those created by Creative Commons that deliberately limit copyrights to owners’ work so that users can be less concerned about infringing uses. See also all rights reserved and no rights reserved.

statutory law  Law that results from a legislative act rather than through a court decision. See also case law.



TEACH Act  The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH Act) became federal law in 2002. It updated Section 110(2) of the Copyright Code to accommodate the electronic needs of distance education. Read analysis at Read the TEACH Act (Sec. 13301. Educational Use Copyright Exemption) text at

ten-percent (10%) standard  A common quantity associated with safe reproduction without concern for copyright infringement. It has no basis in statutory law so that it may be possible to justify reproduction of significantly more than that quantity or significantly less depending on the circumstances.

transformative work  A reproduction of a piece protected by copyright that has changed the original intent of the work so that the reproduction could be justified as a non-infringement.

work  The expression of an idea in some fixed form, such as in print or digitally, such that it can receive protection under copyright law.

work made for hire  A work produced as a function of the author's employment status as a hired contractor. Instead of the author being the copyright owner, the employer is. A negotiated agreement may give the author specific copyrights. Read details at