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Copyright for Students

What is Copyright?

“Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression.

Copyright covers both published and unpublished works” (U.S. Copyright Office, n.d.).

Image from User:Zscout370 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Please watch the video below for an overview before continuing: 

A copyright owner has six rights, which grant the owner exclusive right to:


  • reproduce (i.e., make copies of) the work;
  • create derivative works based on the work (i.e., to alter, remix, or build upon the work);
  • distribute copies of the work;
  • publicly display the work;
  • perform the work; and
  • in the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.


Copyright Basics


  • Copyright ownership is automatic, as long as the work is in a fixed format 
    • Example: Music is recorded on a CD
    • You are not required to register, give notice (the c in a circle), or deposit in the Library of Congress
  • However, published works ARE required to register, give notice, and deposit in the Library of Congress

As a student should you care about copyright law?  YES!


There are many reasons why being knowledgeable about copyright law is important:

1.) You are the creator of copyrighted works so you should know how the law applies to your own creations

2.) You will be using copyrighted materials and infringement can result in significant penalties

3.) Copyright is the law; disregarding it is illegal

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