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This guide introduces the fundamentals of copyright for the purposes of teaching, writing, and publishing.


What is Copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection provided by U.S. law (title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of "original works of authorship," including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.

It gives copyright holders a set of exclusive rights to control how a work is shared and used. The author of a work has the exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, and make derivatives from their work.

These rights are subject to exceptions and limitations, such as the fair use provision that allows limited uses of works without permission from the copyright holder, or the classroom teaching exceptions that allow certain uses for teachers without seeking permission. These exceptions are a part of the law and are as important as the protections themselves.

What Does Copyright Protect?

Copyright protects any "minimally creative" work that has been fixed in a tangible medium, from the moment it is created. This can include

  • Literary works
  • Musical works, including any accompanying words
  • Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic and sculptural works
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works
  • Computer software

Copyright does not protect facts or ideas.

Copyright in Academia

In an academic setting, copyright protection can apply to:

  • Articles and manuscripts you write
  • Datasets you create (to a degree)
  • Instruction plans and curriculum outlines
  • Classroom presentation
  • Instructional material such as handouts 

ATSU Copyright Policies

As an employee or student of ATSU, ATSU may claim or share copyright with work you create as part of your schoolwork, research, or teaching. For more details, see the policies below.

Legal Disclaimer

The Vice President & General Counsel, Matthew Heeren, has reviewed and approved this site to research copyright questions, as of October 6th 2021.  Direct any specific legal questions relating to copyright to Mr. Heeren.

The educational materials on copyright is not intended to substitute for and is in no way legal advice.  

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