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A guide to current copyright regulations, fair use, and the public domain.

What is Copyright?

American copyright law gives authors of original creative works of authorship, including written work, artwork, musical scores, choreography, and architectural designs, the exclusive right to:

  • make copies,
  • prepare derivative works,
  • sell or distribute copies, and
  • display and/or perform the work publicly.

Anyone other than the copyright holder must have permission to perform these actions with the copyrighted work.

(U.S. Copyright Office)

This Image is in the Public Domain!

"Copyright. By the President of the United States of America. A proclamation ... Done at the City of Washington this ninth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and ten .... Wm. H. Taft. [Washington D. C. 1910]."
Library of Congress American Time Capsule

For more info:

Need to use copyrighted work in your own work or research?

Copyright in American Law

© Copyright in the Constitution ©

The Congress shall have Power ... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

© Copyright in Current Law ©

Keep Up with Copyright

Issues in copyright law come up on a regular basis in many different fields. The following list includes news organizations, law firms, and other interested groups that write or collect news on copyright law to keep you up to date.


Copyright: All fields

Copyright: Specific field

Trademark: General

Subject Guide

Vicky Ludas Orlofsky's picture
Vicky Ludas Orlofsky
Research Services Department


The information presented here is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.