1) What Kind Of Work Is Covered?

Copyrights in the United States are created by federal law. The U.S. Constitution authorized Congress to protect “writings” in order to increase knowledge. The federal copyright law (17 U.S.C. § 101 et. seq., hereafter, the “Copyright Act” or the “Act”) does so by protecting “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” Section 102 of the Copyright Act lists eight categories of protected works:

  • Literary works
  • Musical works
  • Dramatic works
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works 

 One need do nothing to bring a work within the protection of the federal statutes. It is protected from the moment of its fixation.


2) What Are The Rights Of Copyright Owners?

  1. Make copies. This applies to any kind of duplication of a protected work, including  photocopies, digital copies, reprints, etc.
  2. Create derivative works.  Derivative works include translations, modifications, adaptations, reformatting, fictionalizations, dramatizations, versions of a work in a different medium, abridgements, condensations – any new work that is based upon or that incorporates large parts of a pre-existing work.
  3. Distribute the work to the public.
  4. Display and/or perform the work publicly.
  5. Perform sound recordings by means of a digital audio transmission.  This new right gives the owner of copyright in a sound recording the exclusive right to authorize online performances.


3) What Is The "Public Domain"? 

After the term of protection is over, even the author’s unique expression is available for anyone to use or to copy freely. The work is considered to be in the “public domain,” and anyone can use it in any way. This would be a good thing if it were easy to identify what constitutes public domain works, but it is not. Since copyright is automatically created from inception, it is impossible for a work to “fall” into the public domain. Check this helpful chart created by University of North Carolina.


4) Aren't Universities Exempt From Copyright Laws?

 Not exactly.  But there are some exceptions that faculty, staff, and students might be able to enjoy: 

  1. Fair use. There is an exception to the copyright owner’s exclusive rights, the scope of fair use is limited.  The statute sets out a weighing and balancing test to guide the evaluation of whether a particular use is fair.   The University System of Georgia has adopted the Harvard checklist for Fair Use, which can be found here.
  2. Library exemption. Many people do not realize that libraries have their own special section of copyright law. Section 108 allows most nonprofit libraries to makearchival copies and copies for patrons, to permit unsupervised copying in the library, and to carry on interlibrary loan operations, among other things. 
  3. First sale. Section 109 describes the first sale doctrine, or the right each of us has to dispose of a work we own. This statute allows people to have used book sales, or enables one person to give or lend a copy of a book to someone else. The first sale doctrine does not, however, authorize anyone to make copies. The publishing and entertainment industries do not believe that the distribution right we all enjoy for print works should apply to electronic works because electronic distribution requires that a copy be made. Many libraries have subscriptions that allow students to use electronic resources freely for classroom assignments.  Electronic copies continue to be considered by the courts, so please check with University General Counsel or the UWG Library staff with questions. 
  4. Face-to-face teaching and distance learning. Section 110 of the Copyright Act authorizes nonprofit educational institutions to display and perform copyrighted works in the classroom, and to transmit some of those works (not including audiovisual works) to distant locations that serve as regular places of instruction.
  5. Internet Service Provider liability limitations. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act limits the liability of Internet service providers (“ISPs”) for infringements committed by their users. These limitations are set out in Section 512 of the Copyright Act and are available to colleges and universities when they act strictly within their capacity as service providers. When a college or university is, itself, the online content provider, the limitations do not apply.



 UWG General Counsel PowerPoint