What is Copyright?

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What is copyright?

United States federal Copyright law grants the creator of an original work a number of exclusive rights. Copyright protection assumes three elements: the work is original, minimally creative, and  fixed in a tangible format. Examples of works that fall under copyright protection include books, articles,  sound recordings, images, art works, motion pictures, sound recordings, choreography, to name a few. The six exclusive rights are (in abbreviated form):

  • The right to reproduce the work
  • The right to prepare derivative works
  • The right to distribute copies of the work to the public
  • The right to perform the work publicly
  • The right to display the work publicly
  • The right to perform the work by means of a digital audio transmission.

These exclusive rights are not absolute, and  they may be unbundled and transferred to someone else: for example, an author may sign over book printing and distribution rights to a publisher. The rights are also limited in duration and are subject to a number of other exceptions. These exceptions, or limitations, permit use of a copyrighted work without the copyright holder's permission under certain conditions (see sections 107 - 122). A brief discussion of one of these limitations follows.