Welcome Back

Welcome Back

Welcome back to Copywrong Copyright. I’m Megan Kettner, the new copyright blogger. If you have any questions or ideas for future posts, feel free to email me. In the meantime, I’ll be providing some basic information on copyright. In later posts I’ll deal with specific issues such as fair use and public domain, and provide some examples of interesting or unusual copyright cases.

What is Copyright? 

Copyright law protects the rights of a creator of a work, granting that creator the sole right to determine how and by whom that work--and any derivative works--can be used. Current U.S. copyright law protects a work for a term consisting of the life of the author plus 70 years, after which the work enters the public domain (meaning it can be used by anyone in any manner). So, for example, the works of Virginia Woolf and Sherwood Anderson, who both died in 1941, entered the public domain at the beginning of 2012.

It is important to remember, however, that even though a work may be in the public domain, that does not mean that all of that work’s derivatives are in the public domain. The original works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, for example, are public domain, but some English translations of his works are still under copyright protection.

What can be Copyrighted?

Copyright protection can be applied to any creative work that is fixed in form. Books, written music, paintings, sculptures, movies, and choreographic routines can all be copyrighted. Names, ideas, and facts cannot be copyrighted, because they are neither creative nor tangible. More examples of what can and cannot be copyrighted can be found on the U.S. Copyright Office website.