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Copyright@Drew: Basics

Legal Disclaimer

This guide is informational only, and should not be construed as legal advice.

Copyright Basics

The U.S. Copyright Law was enacted to promote the progress of science and useful arts through through laws which protect creative works, allow for their dissemination and use, and promote the transformation of existing works into new creative work.


Is it protected by Copyright?

An interactive tool for learning about the Copyright protections materials produced in the USA.  This tool can help you figure out whether the work you want to use is in the public domain.

Is it Protected by Copyright? 

Copyright Basics

What is Copyright

 What is copyright?



Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law (Title 17, U.S. Code) that provides authors & creators with certain controls over the reproduction and distribution of their work. Copyright holders have exclusive rights to:

  • reproduce the work, in whole or in part
  • distribute copies of the work
  • publicly perform the work
  • publicly display the work
  • prepare derivative works based on the original, such as translations or adaptations

What does copyright protect?

Copyright protects original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works. Works of authorship include:

  • literary works;
  • musical works, including any accompanying words;
  • dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
  • pantomimes and choreographic works;
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings; and
  • architectural works.

Adapted from: U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 1, Copyright Basics.

Copyright Law & Trusted Guides

Adapted with permission from Copyright LibGuide by Colby College Libraries.

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