Copyright Conundrums: The Basics

Copyright-Conundrums-bannerWelcome to our newest blog series, Copyright Conundrums! Every month we’ll bring you answers to some common copyright questions. We’ll be starting with the basics, like just what is copyright anyway? Later in the series you’ll find answers to questions like, “Can I stream a show on Netflix for my class?” and “What is a Creative Commons license?” ”

Q: What is copyright?

A: According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors of “original works of authorship.”

Federal copyright law protects original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium, which includes:

  • works of literature
  • music
  • drama
  • film
  • sculpture
  • visual art
  • architecture
  • other creative media

Q: Do I have to register with the U.S. Copyright Office to protect my work?

A: No! Copyright exists as soon as the work is created. Registering is voluntary and recommended by the U.S. Copyright Office if you want to bring an infringement lawsuit.  Adding © 2016 Your Name on your work puts people on notice that the work is protected by copyright, for example @ 2016 Shalu Gillum.

Q: Why do I need to worry about copyright?

A: If you infringe on someone else’s copyright (i.e., you use their copyright protected work without permission), they can sue you in a court of law for monetary damages.

Q: Where can I find more information about copyright?

A: Here are some useful links:

Copyright Law of the United States

UCF Policy on Use of Copyrighted Material

United States Copyright Office – Copyright Basics

United States Copyright Office homepage

Stay tuned next month for more answers to your copyright questions. Remember, the information provided here does not constitute legal advice and should not substitute for actual legal advice. For more copyright information, please see the copyright guide provided by UCF’s John C. Hitt Library, which contains links to copyright policies from the UCF Office of the General Counsel.


3 thoughts on “Copyright Conundrums: The Basics

  1. Do you answer copywrite questions? If so, I’ve got one:

    I heard an old joke a long time ago. I can’t find any reference to it on the internet, but I want to use it in one of my novels. Can I do this?


  2. Thanks for reading! Answering your question might come close to giving legal advice, which we don’t do. Please check out the links in the post for further guidance. Good luck on your project!


  3. Pingback: Copyright Conundrums: Author Rights | Harriet F. Ginsburg Health Sciences Library

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