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Copyright & Related Issues

A guide to current copyright regulations, fair use, and the public domain.

Subject Guide

Vicky Ludas Orlofsky


What is Copyright?

"Copyright is a form of protection provided by to authors of 'original works of authorship,' including 'pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.' The owner of copyright in a work has the exclusive right to:

  • make copies,
  • prepare derivative works,
  • sell or distribute copies, and
  • display the work publicly.

Anyone else wishing to use the work in these ways must have the permission of the author or someone who has derived rights through the author."

(U.S. Copyright Office)


This Image is in the Public Domain!
"Copyright. By the President of the United States of America. A proclamation ... Done at the City of Washington this ninth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and ten .... Wm. H. Taft. [Washington D. C. 1910]."
Library of Congress American Time Capsule

Copyright in American Law

© Copyright in the Constitution ©

The Congress shall have Power ... To 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.

United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8

© Copyright in Current Law ©

The United States copyright law is contained in chapters 1 through 8 and 10 through 12 of title 17 of the United States Code. The Copyright Act of 1976, which provides the basic framework for the current copyright law, was enacted on October 19, 1976, as Pub. L. No. 94-553, 90 Stat. 2541. The 1976 Act was a comprehensive revision of the copyright law in title 17. ...

Chapters 9 and 13 of title 17 contain two types of design protection that are independent of copyright protection. Chapter 9 of title 17 is the Semiconductor Chip Protection Act of 1984 (SCPA), as amended. On November 8, 1984, the SCPA was enacted as title III of Pub. L. No. 98-620, 98 Stat. 3335, 3347. Chapter 13 of title 17 is the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act (VHDPA). It was enacted on October 28, 1998, as title V of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Pub. L. No. 105-304, 112 Stat. 2860, 2905. Subsequent amendments to the title 17 provisions for SCPA and the VHDPA are also included in the list below, in chronological order of their enactment.

Significant copyright legislation enacted since ... October 2007 includes the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act of 2010.

Copyright Law of the United States of America and Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code, Circular 92

Useful Resources