What is copyright?
For an original work to be protected by US Copyright Law, it must:
Intellectual property is protected by laws specific to the expression of an idea. Copyright is the law specific to the expression of ideas in visual or audio form. Unlike a trademark that indicates a specific item or design is protected, copyright covers a different expression of thought. The term copyright contains within it the meaning of the term: the right to the copy.
Copyright grants creators the exclusive rights:
Look for the copyright notice ©, if there is one (generally there is in a published book), or other type of license. That gives the name of the copyright holder. It is most often the author but could be the publisher. If the copyright holder is deceased, it may be their estate. There are several online resources to search for copyright holders:
--Adapted from Yale University Library
At this point you are aware that the majority of original work that is saved in some tangible form has copyright protections regardless of publication status.
When determining if something is subject to copyright protection or not you will want to consider two things:
If you are still unable to find any documentation regarding the work in question -- reach out to the creator or the estate to ask!
There are two primary rationales for copyright law, though rationales do vary among legal traditions. The utilitarian rationale is associated with common law, while authors’ rights identifies with the civil law.
Utilitarian: In this view, the purpose of copyright is to incentivize creators with the social benefits that will come from those works, including commercial gains.
Author’s rights: Founded upon moral rights, in this rationale copyright protection serves to recognize and protect the deep connection authors have with their creative works. This ensures attribution for authors and preserves the integrity of creative works.
US copyright does not protect “any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery.”
There are a couple of things you can do with copyrighted material:
There are a few exceptions or limitations to copyright that may apply: