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Copyright & Fair Use: Copyright

Getting to know your rights and responsibilities regarding copyright law

Public Domain

What's in the Public Domain?

The work has been assigned by the copyright holder to the public domain

  • Works for which the the term of copyright has expired (See the Copyright Slider below)

  • Works The author failed to satisfy statutory formalities to protect the copyright

  • The work is a work of the US Federal Government

The Copyright Slider provides details about when items first printed in the United States pass into the public domain

For Further Reading

The Fundamentals

Copyright Ownership

The copyright clause of the Constitution gives Congress the power to grant authors exclusive rights to their writings in order to “promote the progress of science and the useful arts” (article 1, section 8, clause 8). The primary purpose of copyright is to foster the dissemination of intellectual works for the public welfare. Giving authors exclusive rights to their works for a limited period of time is seen as a way of rewarding them for their contribution to society. 

U.S. copyright law is found in the Copyright Act, Title 17 of the US Code. These exclusive rights set forth in section 106 of Title 17 include the rights to do, and to authorize others to do, the following:

  • Reproduce copies of the work
  • Distribute copies of the work to the public
  • Create derivative works based on the work
  • Perform the work publicly in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audio­ visual works. In the case of sound recordings to do so by digital transmission
  • Display the work publicly in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audio­ visual work


 Copyright does not apply to the following

  • Facts
  • Ideas
  • Processes or procedures
  • Concepts
  • Principles
  • Systems or methods of operation
  • Discoveries


Subject Guide

Kristin Freda

Applicable U.S. Law

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