"Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors of “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. An original work of authorship is a work that is independently created by a human author and possesses at least some minimal degree of creativity. A work is “fixed” when it is captured (either by or under the authority of an author) in a sufficiently permanent medium such that the work can be perceived, reproduced, or communicated for more than a short time. Copyright protection in the United States exists automatically from the moment the original work of authorship is fixed."
Source: Copyright Basics: Circular 1
Source: 17 U.S.C. §§ 107-122
Source: 17 U.S.C. §§ 102
Works created on or after January 1, 1978
Single Author: 70 years after death of author
Two or more authors: 70 years after last surviving author's death
Work or hire and anonymous works: 95 years from first publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter
Works from 1923 to 1977
Maximum of 95 years from creation
Works prior to 1923
Works published prior to 1923 are in the public domain and are not protected by copyright.
Works not protected by copyright are considered part of the Public Domain and are freely available for anyone to use. Work can enter the Public Domain because it cannot be copyrighted, it was copyright but the copyright expired or was not renewed, or the creator of the work entered the work into the public domain through a Creative Commons or similar license. Many Public Domain and Open Access resources can found bound in the A-Z Resource List.
Copyright law is complicated and legal concerns should be addressed by legal counsel. All copyright guidance on this page is informational and not legal advice.
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