Legal Background
Copyright Coverage

Copyright laws are federal laws primarily put in place by the U.S. Copyright Act, which grant authority to writers to maintain exclusivity over their work in terms of the right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, or license the work itself or derivatives thereof.

What Copyrights Cover

Copyrights have been interpreted to extend to architectural design, software, the graphic arts, motion pictures, and sound recordings in addition to traditional written mediums. The Cornell Law School website offers the following overview of the subject matter and scope of copyright applicability taken from Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 102 of the U.S. Code:

Material Exempted From Copyright

Exceptions on copyright laws are made for library or archival reproduction and fair use. Fair use is defined as using the copyrighted work for the purpose of teaching, scholarship, research, criticism, or news reporting. In these cases, copyrighted work can be reproduced without the explicit consent of the original author.

Duration of Copyright

Copyright protection usually is extended to the author for a set period of time. How long that right will endure varies primarily because copyright laws have undergone several revisions recently. Professor Laura Gasaway of the University of North Carolina's Law School has compiled a helpful chart giving an overview of the varied timetable for copyrights.

NEXT: Copyright Infringement Penalties


Ted LeVan   |   Huat Chye Lim   |   Marissa Mayer   |   Ann Rose Van

Computer Science 201 Final Project
Stanford University, March 1999