Landman Library

Copyright Basics


Copyright is the right of the author of a work or a designee to control any copies or usage of that work.

  • Copyright is a right protected by federal statute.
  • The author of a work may be an artist, a composer, a lyricist, a playwright. The author may even be 2 or more people. Go to Copyright Basics (p. 2) to learn more about authorship of a joint work.
  • A designee may be another individual, an organization, a publisher. Go to Copyright Basics(p. 6) to learn more about the transfer of rights.
  • Copies may be reproductions or modifications (derivative work). Go to Copyright Basics (p. 1) to learn more about reproduction.

What Makes a Work Copyrightable?

It’s an Original Work of Authorship

  • However the Fair Use Provision permits for some degree of appropriation from other people’s work.
  • Read more from the U.S. Copyright Office, Copyright Basics (p. 1).

It’s a Literary, Dramatic, Musical, Artistic Work

  • For a more detailed list, consult the U.S. Copyright Office’s Copyright Basics (p. 3).
  • Intangible works, words, lists, ideas cannot be patented (Copyright Basics, p. 3).
  • Some other kinds of work may be patented or trademarked.

It’s in a Fixed Form

It’s Not Mere Information or Common Property


  • A Copyright Symbol (©) is Not Required. It was at one time and still is for certain older works, but not any more (Copyright Basics, (p. 4).
  • Copyright protection is automatic as soon as the author of the work establishes a fixed form. When the author puts a work to paper, saves it in a electronic file, pushes it out to the web, etc., that individual has copyright protection.
  • While use of the copyright symbol is not required, it is a visible reminder that a given work is copyrighted and puts potential infringers on notice.
  • Publication is Not Required.
  • The U.S. Copyright Office has a definition of “publication” (Copyright Basics, p. 3). It has to do specifically with how it’s released to the public.


  • Registration is Not Required.
  • Registration is a benefit when the author of a work wishes to enforce or protect her or his copyright. Registration is a prerequisite for filing a lawsuit for copyright infringement (Copyright Basics, p. 7).
  • A author of a work may register a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office by submitting an application with the appropriate fee and approved copies of the work.
  • Go to the U.S. Copyright Office’s Copyright Basics (p. 7) to learn how to register a copyright.