Copyright as Intellectual Property

What is Copyright?

Copyright protects the recording of ideas in some form (as text, audio, visual, digital media, software program, artistic works, etc.) but NOT the ideas themselves.

Check out the U.S. Copyright office website for more details. Be sure to also read the FAQs.

  • Copyright protection exists even if a work is not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.
  • Although you can use the ideas and facts that someone else has presented in a copyrighted work, you must cite the author's name and the source used to indicate and give credit to the original author, otherwise this is an act of plagiarism.
  • Use of copyrighted materials without permission and/or correct citation is both unethical and illegal.

This means that as a student, you retain the copyright to any work you produce. If you publish your work, the copyright passes from you to the publisher, although you may be able to retain certain rights to use your work.

Note also that copyright protection also applies to material on the Internet.

Fair Use and Copyright:

Ownership does not imply holding a copyright; only the creator or their designated heirs can claim copyright. Copyright law gives the creator the right to control how his/her work is presented, displayed or used by others.

However, under certain conditions, others may be able to use small portions of anotherís work for specific purposes. This is known as Fair Use and generally applies to non-profit and educational users with appropriate citation(s).

Some examples where Fair Use applies:

  • Quotations
  • Summary of an article
  • Use of a portion of a work for educational purposes (by either a student or teacher)
A woman in the library bookstacks.

What is Public Domain?

  • Public Domain refers to any works that are not protected by copyright, so that they may be freely used by anyone. However, use of these works must still be cited.

Does copyright expire?
  • Copyright protection varies depending on the type of work and when it was produced or published. Consult this table to learn more about copyright duration.