Copyright is a form of intellectual
property law, which protects original works of authorship. Copyright
grants the owner the exclusive right to:
- to reproduce the copyrighted work;
- to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted
- to distribute copies of the copyrighted work to
the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental,
lease, or lending.
Copyright is automatically secured when original works
of authorship are fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now
known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced,
or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a
machine or device. (U.S. Copyright Act, Title 17, U.S. Code, Sections
If you write a paper or a book, develop a computer
program, send an e-mail, or take a photograph, you automatically
own copyright to that work, unless you did it for your employer.
Most information on the Internet is protected by copyright because
as with printed versions, material is "fixed" in a tangible
medium of expression. Copyrighted material that is contained in
e-mail and on Listservs and the World Wide Web is protected.
A misconception among many people is that if
material appears on the Internet, then it's free for the taking.
In most cases, materials on the Internet are protected by copyright.
Do not include any images or other materials that you obtain
from the Web unless you obtain permission from the copyright owner.
If this is not obvious from the Web site, you should write to the
webmaster for that particular site. Both the request for use and
the permission to use should be in writing and dated; most publishers
Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of
operation, although it might protect the way these are expressed.
A work is in the public domain when its copyright term expires.
In the U.S., copyright lasts for life of author plus 70 years; for
commissioned works and works for hire, copyright lasts for 95 years
from the date of publication. This legislation, which was signed
into law in late 1998, brought the U.S. in line with copyright terms
in other countries.
As defined in the U.S. Copyright Law, a "work made for hire"
is work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment.
In the case of a work made for hire, either your employer or the
commissioning party is considered the author of the work and owns
all rights. Your research paper is considered a "work made