This photo of Oscar Wilde taken by Napoleon Sarony was the subject of the court case Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony in which the court ruled that the photograph met the standard of creativity. The photographer chose the camera, equipment, lighting, angles, and placement of subject. A photographic copy of a work of art, however, has been ruled not to meet this standard. It is merely “slavish copying” (Bridgeman Art Library Ltd v Corel Corp—1999.)
This signifies material with a Creative Commons license. Material may be used without permission under the guidelines specified by the author.
Copyright is a constitutionally conceived property right designed to promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing for an author the benefits of his or her original work of authorship for a limited time.
The U.S. Constitution states:
The Congress shall have Power…to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
The Copyright Law (U.S. Code Title 17 and its amendments) implements this policy by balancing the author’s rights against the public interest. Copyrights set up a monopoly, granting the copyright holder the exclusive right to:
“Copying” includes photocopying, printing, scanning, posting, recording, duping, or any other means of reproducing a work either in part or entirety. Linking to copy of an electronic work is not copying.
Copyright is a limited monopoly. Exemptions are built in to the law to benefit the public.
"Original works of authorship” that are “fixed in a tangible medium” are automatically copyrighted upon their creation. These include:
Originality requires minimum creativity. (See sidebar.)
Fixed means the work is embodied in a stable form for more than a brief duration of time. A spontaneous unrecorded performance does not have the protections of copyright.
Tangible medium is one that allows a work to be perceived and communicated.
Do not assume the absence of the copyright symbol (©) on a work means it does not fall under copyright protection. Eligible works are given copyright protection upon their creation, and the author does not have to register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office or use the symbol to secure these rights. Unpublished works are fully protected by copyright.
Ideas, facts, titles, names, short phrases, slogans, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices are not protected by copyright. However, trademark and patent law may offer protection for some of these categories.
Works in the public domain do not have copyright protection. Public domain works are either those whose copyright term has expired or are U.S. Government publications.
Determining public domain status can often be complicated. The American Library Association has created an easy-to-use Public Domain Slider to help you determine a work's status.
Authors sometimes elect to not exercise their full rights available under the Copyright Law.
Creative Commons is an organization which assists authors in creating copyright models that suit their needs. These models give the author:
Authors can create their licenses based on factors of attribution, the commercial or non-commercial purposes of the re-use, and allowing or disallowing derivative works. See the specialized licenses from Creative Commons.
Open Access makes many works freely available online without selected or all copyright restrictions. Examples of Open Access models include:
It is important to investigate the copyright model employed for each open access work. Creative Commons-licensed work may be used without permission but only under the specified circumstances.
While the law establishes a limited monopoly for the exclusive use of copyrighted works, it balances these rights with the public good (i.e., the increase and transmission of knowledge and ideas). Copyrights are limited under particular conditions. These rights and conditions include: