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What is copyright?

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright is: "a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works."

This right is derived from the Copyright Clause of the Constitution, which empowers Congress:

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

What does copyright protect?

Under 17 USCS Section102 the following is protected:

  • Literature
  • Music and lyrics
  • Drama
  • Pantomime and dance
  • Pictures, graphics, sculpture
  • Films
  • Sound Recordings
  • Architecture
  • Software

"In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work."

Who owns the copyright?

  • The author
  • Those deriving rights through or from the author
    • This can include publishers, record labels, descendants of the author, etc.
  • If the work is done as a work for hire, the employer of the author is the copyright holder
  • If the work has more than one author, two or more authors can own copyright

-Derived from the Copyright Clearance Center's 2006 Copyright Education Series Foundations Workbook

How long does copyright last?

The United States has had several copyright codes in its history, so depending on when a work was created, it may or may not be protected by copyright. Check out the American Library Association's Digital Copyright Slider to see if what you want to use is in the public domain or covered by copyright.


© Digital Copyright Slider ©

The following are recommended resources for Old Westbury faculty who want to know how their work is protected via copyright.


SUNY faculty copyright ownership Frequently Asked Questions

Fair Use of Copyrighted Work

Pamphlet made by CETUS (Consortium for Educational Technology for University Systems), which is comprised of California Satae University (CSU), State University of New York (SUNY), and City University of New York (CUNY). State University of New York (SUNY), and City University of New York (CUNY).