Copyright Formalities FAQ

What can be copyrighted?

With a few exceptions copyright applies to any original expression that fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Facts and ideas are not subject to copyright, nor are many government works or most compilations, data sets, or databases. Once copyright has expired for a work it enters the public domain and is no longer subject to copyright protection.

How long does copyright last?

The term of copyright protection varies based on several factors including who created the work and when it was created, but for most works created by a single person the term is for the life of the author plus 70 years. This Digital Copyright Slider can help you determine the copyright status of a work.

If I don't see the © symbol, can I assume there is no copyright?

No. Copyright does not require any formalities like registration or marking with the (c) symbol. As soon as a work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression it is protected by copyright.

So I don't have to register the copyright on something I create?

You are not required to do so, but there are some advantages, especially if you plan to commercialize a work. Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim. This allows you to sue for copyright infringement, establishes prima facie evidence in court of your ownership and is required for statutory damages and attorney's fees.

What rights does the copyright holder have?

Section 106 of the Copyright act spells out five specific rights granted to the copyright holder. Unless your use fits a copyright exception you must have the permission of the copyright holder to reproduce, distribute, create a derivative works, publicly display, or publicly perform their work.

Does copyright require attribution?

No. This is a common misconception, but copyright law generally does not require a user to attribute the work to the creator or current copyright holder. Most academic disciplines consider attribution at least good practice, however, and failure to attribute may constitute plagiarism. Attribution may also be considered a sign of good faith in a fair use analysis.