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Copyright and Creative Commons

Understanding copyright issues in the classroom, plus a self-paced instructional module!

What is Copyright?

What is Copyright?

According to Webster's, copyright is the exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.


Origins of Copyright

”The Congress shall have the power… [t]o promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

- Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution

Additional Milestones

1790: Copyright Act of 1790 - The first congress implements the copyright provision in the Constitution

1831: Revision of the Copyright Act - Extends copyright to 28 years, with an additional 14 year renewal

1870: Revision of the Copyright Act - Copyright administration moved to the Library of Congress's jurisdiction

1909: Revision of the U. S. Copyright Act - Broadens scope, extends terms again (28 years with a 28 year renewal)

1976: Revision of the U. S. Copyright Act - Major revision: addressed technological advances, extends terms, Fair Use

1994: Conference on Fair Use (CONFU) - The Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights broadens Fair Use guidelines

1998: Digital Millennium Copyright Act - Addresses internet issues, unauthorized digital copying

2001: Creative Commons founded - The Center for Public Domain supports expanding how creative works are shared

2002: TEACH Act - Addresses digitial media use in online, nonprofit, educational settings

What's Covered by Copyright?

What is Covered By Copyright?


Protected Not Protected
Literary works Ideas / methods / concepts
Musical works Non-tangible works
Dramatic works Titles, names, short phrases
Choreographic works Familiar symbols / designs
Motion pictures Typographic ornamentation / coloring
Sound recordings Ingredient lists / content lists
Architectural works


Who can claim copyright?

Who Can Claim Copyright?

  • The author who created the work
    • This one is obvious, right?
  • The person or organization who initiated the "work for hire"
    • "Work for hire" - if someone is paid to develop content, then (depending on the contract) the payee is the owner of the copyright!
  • The person or organization to whom copyright is transferred
    • A copyright can be transferred to / renewed by another person or designated organization. Think author foundations and trusts!

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Next Up: Fair Use

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