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Copyright Law, and the World Wide Web

Copyright is controlled in the United States by Title 17 of the United States Code. The Unites States Copyright Office Web site provides basic information, copyright records, forms, law and policy and other topics of interest from

The Copyright Office is located in the Library of Congress. According to the Web site listed above, “A principle of American law is that an author of a work may reap the fruits of his or her intellectual creativity for a limited period of time. Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations. “Copyright” literally means the right to copy. The term has come to mean that body of exclusive rights granted by law to authors for protection of their work. The owner of copyright has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, and, in the case of certain works, publicly perform or display the work; to prepare derivative works; in the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission; or to license others to engage in the same acts under specific terms and conditions. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, slogan, principle, or discovery.” (These last would be covered by patent and trademark.)

There are many different copyright laws to which a work may be subject, depending on the date of its creation. The current law came into effect in 1976.

Prior to 1976, works registered for copyright between January 1, 1923 and December 31, 1949 were copyrighted for 28 years, A Renewal period between the 27th and 28th anniversary of the original copyright, requested by the original author or literary executor of the estate, would extend the copyright to December 31 of the 95th year in which anniversary of the original copyright falls. From 1950 through the end of 1963, the copyright renewal is for 67 years beyond the original 28. For works copyrighted from January 1964 through the end of 1977, the renewal for a total of 95 years is automatic. After January 1, 1978, the copyright period is for the natural life of the author plus 70 years. The anniversary runs until December 31 of the year in which the 70th anniversary falls.

A work is considered under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form.

Fair Use allows use of copyrighted material for specific and qualified purposes. These purposes include criticism, commentary, news reportage, research and scholarship. Copyrighted materials may not be used without permission, but pointers to specific information, such as URLs may be used.

Permission to use a copyrighted work must be granted by the copyright owner via e-mail or regular communication.

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