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Copyright Basics

What is Copyright?

By definition-“Copyright is the legally secured right to publish and sell the substance and form of a literary, artistic or musical work.” Copyright law is designed to protect:

  • Authors-Anyone creating a work
  • Publishers/Producers-Distributors of the work
  • The Public-Persons who use a work.

Works of authorship include the following: literary works; musical compositions including the lyrics, if any; dramatic works; pantomime and choreographic works; pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; motion pictures and other audio-visual works; and sound recordings.

Copyright laws give the author/owner of original works exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:

  • Reproduce the copyrighted work
  • Prepare derivative works
  • Distribute copies by sale or other transfer of ownership
  • Perform or display the copyrighted work publicly, as in literary, musical, dramatic, or choreographic works, pantomimes, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, or works of art.

The copyright law is violated whenever a third party exercises any of the above rights without authorization of the copyright owner and without having express permission to do so under the law. The law has provided that certain limited uses of copyrighted materials may be made without the author's permission and without infringing the author's copyright. Two widely used exceptions to the copyright owner's exclusive control over the copying and distribution of his work are found in 17 U.S.C. 108 pertaining to libraries and 17 U.S.C. 107 pertaining to fair use.

*This information may be subject to certain license agreements between Coy C. Carpenter Library and various vendors and/or publishers.

*Some of the information on this and other pages was taken from the workshop "Copyright in the Digital Age" presented by , at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in February 2003.


Print Resources

The complete copyright liability handbook for librarians and educators / Tomas A. Lipinski
Carpenter Library Staff Collection
Z 551 L764c 2006

Copyright law for librarians and educators: Creative strategies and practical solutions / Kenneth D. Crews
Carpenter Library Reference Room Collection
Z 551 C927c 2006

Licensing and copyright management: Best practices of academic, special, and research libraries
Carpenter Library Staff Collection
Z 551 L698 2004

Questions & answers on copyright for the campus community
Carpenter Library Reference Room Ready Reference Shelf
Z 551 Q5 2003

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