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Describes the basics of copyright, fair use, plagiarism, public domain and best practices within the context of teaching and learninig.

About this guide

The purpose of this guide is to provide faculty, staff, and students at Angelo Sate University with a basic understanding of copyright law and fair use. This guide does not offer any legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.

What is Copyright?

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright is "a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression.  Copyright covers both published and unpublished works."

Copyright law, as defined in Title 17 of the United States Code, protects "original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression" for a limited period. Copyright protection includes, for instance, the legal right to publish,reproduce and sell literary, artistic, or musical work.

Copyright applies both to traditional media (books, records, etc.) and to digital media (electronic journals, web sites, etc.). Copyright protects the following eight categories of works:

  • literary works
  • musical works
  • dramatic works
  • pantomimes and choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works
Ownership of a copyrighted work includes the right to control the use of that work. Use of such work by others during the term of the copyright requires either permission from the author or reliance on the doctrine of fair use. Failure to do one or the other will expose the user to a claim of copyright infringement for which the law provides remedies including payment of money damages to the copyright owner.

History of Copyright in the United States

What Is protected under copyright and what is not?

Under US Code17 Section 102, the following are copyright-protected:

Literature Music and lyrics Drama
Pantomime and dance Pictures, graphics, sculpture Films
Sound Recordings Architecture Software

The following cannot be copyrighted, but can be protected by patent or trade secret laws

Facts Ideas Names
Titles Short Phrases Procedures
Processes Systems Concepts
Principles Discoveries