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Copyright : Copyright Basics

Copyright Basics

The first copyright law, called the Statute of Anne was enacted in 1710, in England. It promoted learning by vesting the copies of printed books to the authors or the owners of the copies of the book. The copyright lasted for a 14-year period.

In 1790, the U.S. Constitution enshrined in American law the principle that an author of a work may reap the fruits of his or her intellectual creativity for a limited amount of timeFrom its humble beginnings, copyright law expanded. By 1886, the Berne Convention established a more cohesive document outlining the purpose of copyright. In this way, the purpose of copyright granted authors “exclusive rights.” These rights gave the author the right to control their works. It prevented anyone from copying, distributing, performing, adapting, or using the works without the express permission significantly protecting the rights of the authors.

The exclusive rights of authors are expressed in many ways. Specifically, it allows the author the right to control the translations of their work, copies of their works, public performance, communication of said work, including broadcast as well as adaptations or arrangements of their works. 

This change promoted the advancement of science, inventions, the arts, and other intellectual property. Scientists, artists, inventors, and other creators were given an incentive to create and contribute to the advancement of society. With this right, not only the author but also the nation benefited as well.

Inherent in the “exclusive rights of authors” are also “moral rights.” These moral rights are utilitarian and give the author the ability to control their work in a broader sense. The direct relationship between the author and the work and the reputation of the author to the work are paramount.

Importantly, the right of the author to be recognized as the author of the work and to protect the integrity of the work is granted in the “moral rights” of authors.

Another significant right is “Similar or neighboring rights.”  Copyright-like rights, they relate more to the people involved in the broadcast, communication, or performance of works and vary by country. Worldwide copyright laws vary, however; many countries harmonize their laws to some extent, making it somewhat easy to understand global copyright.


Copyright Law in the United States

Title 17 of the United States Code 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. This protection covers both published and unpublished works.  It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by copyright law to the owner of the copyright.  


US Copyright Office

The United States Copyright Office and the position of Register of Copyrights were created by Congress in 1897. The Register directs the Copyright Office as a separate federal department within the Library of Congress, under the general oversight of the Librarian, pursuant to specific statutory authorities set forth in the United States Copyright Act.

Check here for a variety of information about, resources, education, and updates on copyright

What is Copyright Protected?

Copyright protects the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves. This expression of ideas can take many forms:

Written material such as books, articles, essays, novels, poems, lyrics, letters, training manuals, and reports

​Copyright does not protect facts; works created by the US Federal Government; works not fixed in a tangible format such as ideas, concepts; principles; words; phrases, and fair symbols are not in copyright. 

Copyright Video and Images

Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998
Copyright Law of the United States - (U.S. Code § 12)
Appendix B

Copyright and Fair Use of Images 

When searching for multimedia (audio clips, video clips, pictures) on the internet, you should always assume that any media you come across is copyrighted, unless stated otherwise next to the picture or clip or on the web site.  Finding any media on the Internet does not automatically grant you the right to use it for any purpose other than viewing or listening to the media on the web. 

Before downloading or using any media, check for any copyright and usage restrictions.  Most web sites provide information and guidelines for the downloading or use of media contained on the site.  If a picture or clip is labeled as being in the public domain, then it is available for public use.  Many websites also allow the use of media for non-commercial or educational purposes only.  It is your responsibility to follow the guidelines for the use of media from individual web sites. Some of the sites ask that you provide credit to the web site in addition to a link back to the original location.

Creative Commons Image Search is a portal of images, either in the public domain or under creative commons licenses that can be used. 

The TEACH Act stands for the Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2002. The purpose of the TEACH Act is to provide online classes a way to perform or display copyrighted materials. However, there are very strict requirements to invoke the TEACH Act for copyrighted materials.

What is not covered under the TEACH Act?

  1. Anything that's produced and sold for performance or display as part of a digitally transmitted mediated instructional activity. THis you have to buy or license. This includes videos that were created as instructional materials and are available for purchase in a streaming format.
  2. Illegally acquired copies of materials. For example, you cannot go to a movie theatre and digitally film a movie to show in your online class.

 What is covered under the TEACH Act providing that other conditions are met?

  1. Complete performances of non-dramatic literary and musical works.
  2. Limited portions of other works.

What sort of other conditions are required?

  1. The work must be an integral part of the class session and relates to the content being taught.
  2. Must be analagous to what you would use in a face-to-face class.
  3. Materials cannot be used for entertainment purposes.
  4. Materials cannot replace a textbook.
  5. Must be used within Canvas so that only students enrolled in the class has access.
  6. Has to be provided in a format that prevents downloading and saving by students for future viewing.
  7. You need to provide a statement to students that the work is copyrighted.


The information provided on this LibGuide does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.