A work doesn't have to be published to be copyrighted. In fact, works created today have long copyright terms, even if they aren't published!
This site is intended for informational purposes only. Library staff members cannot give legal advice. For legal advice, you should contact an intellectual property attorney.
Copyright is a set of rights that protects the works of authors, artists, composers, and others from being used by other people without permission. It is articulated in the United States Constitution and ensured by Title 17 of the U.S. Code.
Copyright guarantees that the owner of a copyrighted work has the exclusive right to reproduce it, distribute it, perform it publicly, and prepare derivative works based upon it. According to the U.S. Constitution, copyright is not only for the protection of creators; it is also designed to "promote the progress of science and useful arts" (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8).
Remember that copyright is not unlimited. Just because something is copyrighted doesn't mean you can't use it. You are not infringing on copyright if:
Since many items created in the United States have automatic copyright protection, you should be aware of copyright every time you use materials created by someone else. Here are some examples:
Remember: you can use something for educational purposes and still be in violation of the law!
According to copyright law, "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression" are eligible for copyright protection, whether or not they are published. These include:
Works that are not fixed in a "tangible medium of expression" and/or have no original authorship cannot be copyrighted. These include:
Although these may not be eligible for copyright, they may be protected by other forms of intellectual property law, like trademarks and patents.