Knowledge Center

Scope of Copyright Protection

Copyright protection generally gives the copyright's owner the exclusive right to do the following:

  • Reproduce the work
  • Prepare derivative works based upon the work
  • Distribute copies of the work to the public
  • Perform the work publicly
  • Display the copyrighted work publicly
  • Perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission (in the case of sound recordings)

The owner may also authorize others to exercise these rights.

For works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection will endure for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. In the case of a joint work, the term lasts for 70 years after the last surviving author's death. For anonymous and pseudonymous works and works made for hire, the term will be 95 years from the year of first publication or 120 years from the year of creation, whichever expires first. For works created before January 1, 1978, the protection terms are the same, unless the work is in its renewal period, in which case it will be protected for 95 years from its creation.

Limits on Copyright Protection

The following three limitations apply to copyright protection:

  • The doctrine of fair use. This allows others to use portions of copyrighted works for purposes such as reviews, commentary, news and scholarship.
  • Items which are not copyrightable, such as titles, names, common facts and ideas, are not protected.
  • Some works are in the public domain and may be used by anyone. This includes works with expired copyrights.

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