About Copyright | CCommons
What is copyright
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The default of “all rights reserved” copyright is that all rights to copy and adapt a work are reserved by the author or creator (with some important exceptions that you will learn about shortly).

A person receives copyright automatically after fixing the work in a durable medium.

Copyright law
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Copyright law is the area of law that limits how others may use the original works of authors (or creators, as we often call them) — works spanning the spectrum from novels and operas, to cat videos, to scribbles on a napkin.

Purpose of Copyright
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Under this rationale, copyright is designed to provide an incentive to creators.

The aim is to encourage the creation of new works.

Author’s rights
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Under this rationale, copyright is primarily intended to ensure attribution for authors and preserve the integrity of creative works. The aim is to recognize and protect the deep connection authors have with their creative works.

What is copyrightable and what is not
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Articles, books, music, theater plays, movie scripts, websites, architecture designs etc.

Not copyrightable
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Ideas, titles and names, facts, works without know authors, fashion, works by the US government etc.

What copyright does and does not
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... grants a set of exclusive rights to creators (depending on the creation conditions).

... does not protect facts or ideas themselves, only the expression of those facts or ideas

... is automatic the moment a work is fixed in a tangible medium (written, recorded etc.).

... its protection lasts a long time (in general, the life of the author + 50 years).

Moral Rights

Right to be recognized
as the author of the work
(“right of paternity”).

Right to protect the
work’s integrity.

Exclusive rights

To make authorized translations of their works.

To make copies of their works.

To publicly perform and communicate their works to the public.

To make adaptations and arrangements of their works.

Similar and related rights
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Also called "neighboring rights": designed to give some "copyright-like" rights to those who are not themselves the author but are involved in communicating the work to the public, such as broadcasters and performers.

"Exceptions and limitations" to copyright

"Fair use" in the
United States.

"Fair dealing" in some Commonwealth countries.

Education-specific exceptions and limitations.

The 3-step test to determine fair use
"It shall be a matter for legislation in the countries of the Union
to permit the reproduction of such works"...

in certain special cases, provided that...

such reproduction does not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work...

and it does not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author.

Liability and remedies
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Generally, to establish a claim of copyright infringement, a creator or holder of copyright need only show that she has a valid copyright in the work and that the defendant copied protected expression from the work.

Licensing and transfer
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Many creators and copyright holders need help to fully exercise the exclusive rights or simply give others permission to exercise the right granted by copyright law.

Termination of copyright transfers
and licenses
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The laws of some countries grant copyright holders the right to terminate transfer agreements or licenses even if the transfer agreement or license doesn’t allow it.

Other types of intelectual property protection


A patent grants property rights on an invention, allowing the patent holder to exclude others from making, selling, or using the invention.


A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design that distinguishes the source of products (trademarks) or services (service marks) of one business from its competitors.

Trade Secrets

A trade secret is a formula, process, device, or other business information that companies keep private to give them a business advantage over their competitors.

Works enter the public domain if...

The copyright expires
(life of the author
minimum 50 years)

The copyright holder failed to comply with formalities to acquire or maintain
their copyright

The work was
never entitled
to copyright

The creator dedicates the work to the
public domain
before copyright
has expired

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This work by George Hari Popescu is licensed under a
Creative Commons
Attribution 4.0 International License

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