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What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection provided to authors of original works as soon as the work is in a tangible form. Tangible forms include (but are not limited to): 

  • Literary works
  • Musical works, including lyrics
  • Paintings
  • Photographs
  • Illustrations
  • Sound recordings
  • Books
  • Computer programs
  • Movies


Who is a copyright owner?

Everyone is a copyright owner. Once a work takes a tangible form it is covered by copyright. If a work is created while an employee (work for hire) then the employer may own the copyright unless otherwise stated. 

When submitting to a scholarly journal for publication the author almost always transfers copyright to the publisher. It is highly recommended to review author publishing agreements before agreeing to publication. It is best to assume the publisher owns the copyright for any published journal unless explicitly stated otherwise. 


What are the exclusive rights of a copyright owner?

Copyright provides the owner with the right to: 

  • Reproduce the work
  • Prepare derivative works
  • Distribute copies of the work
  • Display the work publicly
  • License others to do the above


What is NOT protected by copyright?

The following cannot be copyrighted:

  • Facts
  • Ideas, processes, concepts
  • Titles, names, short phrases
  • Materials in public domain
  • Logos or familiar symbols

For more information, see Works Not Protected by Copyright


Is a work copyrighted if it doesn't have the copyright notice?

Yes, a work is copyrighted once it is in a tangible form. A copyright notice is required for works created before March 1, 1989, but is optional for works created after this date. For more information, see Copyright Notice.


What is the length of copyright?

Currently the length of copyright is the life of the author plus 70 years. However, if the work is created as a work for hire then the copyright is 95 years. For more information on work for hire, see Works Made for Hire.


How do I request permission to use copyrighted work?

Many publishers use RightsLink to handle permission requests. Most journals and publisher's include a direct link to permissions and reprint requests on each article's metadata page. RightsLink provides a simple wizard to determine your exact reuse request. NOTE: There may be a fee associated with reusing copyrighted materials. 


Taken from Copyright Basics (U.S. Copyright Office Circular 1) and What is Copyright? (U.S. Copyright Office)


Still have questions? Contact the Library, and we can help!

For more information on copyright at Children's Mercy, review the Copyright Usage Policy