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Academics & Copyright: Copyright

The information in this guide has been gathered from the American Library Association, Library of Congress, United States Copyright Office, Copyright Clearance Center, Miami Dade College, and Columbia University Library.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. This protection covers both published and unpublished works.  It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the copyright law to the owner of copyright.  Download this PDF file from the U.S. Government Printing Office on Copyright Basics  for more information.

Or see this video for a quick intro on Copyright Basics!


What is Protected by Copyright Law?

Literary works, musical works, including any accompanying words; dramatic works, including any accompanying music; pantomimes and choreographic works, artistic works, including cartoons and comic strips; pictorial, graphic, sculptural works, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, sound recordings, architectural works

Note: These categories should be viewed broadly. For example, computer programs and most “compilations” may be regis­tered as “literary works”; maps and architectural plans may be registered as “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works."


What is NOT Protected by Copyright Law?

Works which are not original, or which are not tangibly fixed. For example, titles, slogans, or short phrases are not protected by copyright law, but in some cases these things may be protected as trademark law. Ideas, names, plans, methods, pseudonyms, systems, facts are not protected by copyright. In some circumstances, an artistic logo or a name may also be protected as a trademark. Blank forms and similar works designed to record rather than to convey information are not protected by copyright law. Works by the U.S. government are not eligible for copyright protection.  

Please see the following links, which will be of great help to determine exactly what is and what is not protected by copyright law:‚Äč

Selected Slides taken from

Trademark and Unfair Competition Laws

Some brand names, trade names, slogans, and phrases may be entitled to protection under laws relating to unfair competition, or they may be entitled to protection and registration under the provisions of state or federal trademark laws. The federal trademark statute covers trademarks and service marks—words, phrases, symbols, or designs that distinguish the goods or services of one party from those of another. The Copyright Office has no role in these matters.

Contact the United States Patent and Trademark Office, 800-786-9199 for information on trademark law.