Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Copyright and Fair Use

This guide is designed to provide basic, general information about copyright, and does not constitute legal advice.

Licensing Resources

Public Performance License Sites

How to Get Copyright?

How does a creator get copyright?

Copyright protection begins as soon as a work is created.  Copyright is secured automatically when a work is "fixed in a tangible medium of expression." This means that the work must exist in some physical form for at least some period of time, no matter how brief. Copyright does not protect ideas that are not expressed in tangible form. Written works, photographs, and computer files are all examples of tangible media.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to register my work with the Copyright office or include a ©?

Registration, publication and a copyright notice are no longer legally required in order to have copyright.
There are advantages to giving notice of copyright ownership, however, including putting others on notice of the author’s claim of rights and taking advantage of the availability of certain damages in connection with an infringement claim.  A copyright notice includes the symbol, the author’s name and the year.

Registration also provides several advantages. It establishes a public record of the copyright claim, and it is necessary for works of U. S. origin before an infringement suit may be filed in court.

Who owns "works for hire"?

Works for hire are works prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment and certain specially ordered or commissioned works prepared under written agreement.  In the case of works made for hire, the employer and not the employee is considered to be the author. 

How long does a copyright last?

In general, the copyright term for a work created in the United States after 1977 (that is not a work made for hire) is the life of the author plus 70 years. Once the copyright expires, the work passes into the Public Domain.

Copyright Term and the Public Domain chart by Cornell University Library


Yale University Library LibLicense

Yale University Library Liblicense

"An online educational resource about library licensing of electronic content. Its extensive annotations and links are complemented by an international discussion group of over 3,800 librarians, publishers, attorneys, and others in the information chain." -- Site

"LIBLICENSE is a project initiated in 1997 by Ann Shumelda Okerson, at that time Associate University Librarian at Yale University. It benefited from funding from the Commission on Preservation and Access, the Council on Library Resources (both since merged into the Council on Library and Information Resources), and the Digital Library Federation. The project created unprecedented resources for professionals seeking to understand the then-emerging world of licensed scholarly resources for libraries.  The licensing material has been updated, especially with links to many library, NGO, and vendor resources. At the same time, Liblicense-l began discussion of licensing and related issues. The discussions there have been lively and interesting, have ongoing value, and continue today, with nearly 17,000 messages in the archive. Since November 2011, the Liblicense Project has been hosted at the Center for Research Libraries." -- Site