Did you know that whenever you write a poem or story or even a paper for your class, or a drawing or other artwork, you automatically own the copyright to it. Copyright is a form of protection given to the authors or creators of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and other intellectual works. What that means is that, as the author of the work, you alone have the right to do any of the following or to let others do any of the following:
- make copies of your work;
- distribute copies of your work;
- perform your work publicly (such as for plays, film, dances or music);
- display your work publicly (such as for artwork, or stills from audiovisual works, or any material used on the Internet or television); and
- make “derivative works” (including making modifications, adaptations or other new uses of a work, or translating the work to another media).
In general, it is illegal for anyone to do any of the things listed above with a work created by you without your permission, but there are some exceptions and limitations to your rights. One major limitation is the doctrine of “Fair Use.”
Copyright law in the United States is embodied in federal laws enacted by Congress. The current copyright law, the Copyright Act of 1976 (as amended), is codified in Title 17 of the U.S. Code.