|Copyright appears as one of the basic tenets of the United States Constitution. Its purpose is "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors ... the exclusive Right to their respective Writings...." This law written into the Constitution makes it possible for authors to reap the profits from their creative works. That potential to reap profits is intended as an incentive to authors to create more works for public benefit.
In general, for works created on or after January 1, 1978, the term of copyright is the life of the author plus seventy years after the author’s death. If the work is a joint work with multiple authors, the term lasts for seventy years after the last surviving author’s death. For works made for hire and anonymous or pseudonymous works, the duration of copyright is 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter. For a chart detailing these and many other copyright terms, visit Cornell University Library's Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States.
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors of “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. An original work of authorship is a work that is independently created by a human author and possesses at least some minimal degree of creativity. A work is “fixed” when it is captured (either by or under the authority of an author) in a sufficiently permanent medium such that the work can be perceived, reproduced, or communicated for more than a short time. Copyright protection in the United States exists automatically from the moment the original work of authorship is fixed.
Copyright protects original expression as conveyed in several types of works. Here are some of the types of works that are protected:
Copyright does not protect
This guide is intended to provide basic information about copyright for faculty, staff, and students at Muhlenberg College. The information should in no way be considered legal advice.