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Copyright: Copyright Basics

A research guide devoted to explaining copyright law with regards to higher education.

What is copyright and what can be given a copyright?


Copyright is a form of legal protection that provides authors of original creative works with limited control over the reproduction and distribution of their work. It gives copyright holders a set of exclusive rights to reproduce the work, in whole or in part, distribute copies of the work, publicly perform the work, publicly display the work, and prepare derivative works based on the original, such as translations or adaptations. These rights are subject to expectations and limitations, such as "fair use", which allow limited uses of works without the permission of the copyright holder.              

What can be given a copyright?
Literary works, musical works, including any accompanying words; dramatic works, including any accompanying music; pantomimes and choreographic works, artistic works, including cartoons and comic strips; pictorial, graphic, sculptural works, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, sound recordings, architectural works

Note: These categories should be viewed broadly. For example, computer programs and most “compilations” may be regis­tered as “literary works”; maps and architectural plans may be registered as “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works." 

Copyright Office. (2017) Copyright Basics (Circular 1). Retrieved from

"Copyright Wordle" by teachingsagittarian is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Copyright 101

The above video is used with permission from Any presentation of content must retain all GCFGlobal attribution and marks, and include the following attribution: “All® content is available for free at”

Works That Can Be Copyright-Protected

Resources for Copyright Information

Digital Copyright Compliance


Portions of this research guide have been copied or adapted from research guides from the following institutions, with their permissons: Reynolds Community College, Miami Dade College - Padron campus, and Seton Hall University.

Portions of this guide are from NYU Libraries with the use of a Creative Commons license. Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Portions of this research guide are from Stony Brook University LibrariesCreative Commons License and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Figure 1.1 is from Butler, R. (2014). Copyright for academic librarians and professionals. Chicago: American Library Association.

Legal Notice

Legal disclaimer: this copyright guide is not meant to offer legal advice; it is intended for informational and educational purposes only.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Please give attribution to the University of Minnesota Crookston