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What is Copyright?

Copyright is the right to copy. This right is granted to authors of original works. Among these are rights to:

  • Make copies of the work.
  • Distribute copies of the work (by selling, renting, lending, or giving it away)
  • Perform or display the work publicly
  • Make derivative works, like translations, adaptations, and reinterpretations.

As the owner of the copyright for a work, they can give away, sell, or otherwise license some or all of the above rights to others. For example, when an author negotiates a contract, they might give the publisher a right to copy and distribute the work, but not make future derivative works.

What does Copyright Protect?

Copyright protects any works in a fixed format (words written, video record, a picture taken), is original (wasn't copied), and "minimally" creative (not just numbers or facts). The following are categories of works that are protected by copyright:

1. Literary Works ("are works other than audiovisual")

2. Musical works, including any accompanying music (compositions or songs)

3. Dramatic works, including any accompanying music

4. Pantomimes and choreographic works

5. Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works

6. Motion pictures and other audiovisual works

7. Sound recordings

8. Architectural works

What does Copyright NOT Protect?

Copyright does not protect words, slogans, titles, ideas, procedures, methods, facts and news.

  • Procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation
  • Ideas, concepts, principles, or discoveries
  • Titles, names, short phrases and slogans; familiar symbols or designs, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, mere listings of ingredients or contents
  • Other unoriginal or unfixed works.

For an additional resource in helping you find out if a work is covered by U.S. copyright and calculating its terms of protection, use Copyright Genie (click on the genie lamp to begin)


CopyRight@BC website is intended to provide general information and does not constitute legal advice. Please contact a licensed copyright lawyer if in need of counseling.


Phil Roche
Copyright Librarian

Linda McConnell
Digital Copyright Manager

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