Copyright is about protecting creators. Whenever someone creates something new by putting pen to paper, choreographing a dance, designing a graph, or taking a photo — it is theirs from the moment of its creation forward. And the creator's rights to benefit from that work (literary, artistic, musical, dramatic, written or unwritten) — financially or otherwise — is protected by law.
Copyright law protects authors from having their works copied without their permission. (Title 17 of the United States Code; Copyright Act of 1976).
When the creator of a work dies, the rights to benefit from a work passes to his/her family and continues for 70 years after the creator's death; at that point, the work enters the 'public domain.'
PUBLIC DOMAIN: Works which are not owned by someone, and therefore not protected by copyright.
A work may be in the public domain because:
Created before copyright laws (example: The Iliad, Canterbury Tales),
its copyright protection has expired (example: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale),
it never had copyright protection or its protection was lost (example: a work published before March 1, 1989 and did not carry a copyright notice),
it was dedicated to the public domain.
In addition, the following items are never covered by copyright:
works created by the U.S. government (except under contract).
reprints of works in the public domain (but a license may restrict use.)
ideas, facts, and common property (i.e., calendars and phone books)
federal laws and court decisions
words, names, slogans and phrases
most blank forms
recipes, discoveries, procedures, and systems (but not the words that describe them.)
|Initial US copyright||Current copyright status|
|before 1923||Public domain|
|1923-1963||Still protected by copyright law if the copyright was renewed; check for renewal at Stanford Copyright Renewal Database and the Library of Congress Copyright Database to cover the entire date range.|
|1964-1977||Still protected by copyright law. Protected 28+67=95 years from initial copyright date.|
|1978-||Still protected by copyright law; however, these rules are very complex. Generally speaking copyright protection ends 70 years after death of author.|
Just because an item is old doesn't guarantee that it is part of the public domain. If you're at all uncertain, get permission from the creator or owner to use or copy the work.
A lack of specific attribution instructions does not mean that a work should not be attributed. Rather, you must put together an attribution statement to the best of your ability. This statement should include:
Any copyright notices posted by the copyright holder
Some form of identification of the author (a screen name is acceptable if you cannot locate an author name)
The name of the resource
The license, and if possible, a link to the license terms
If you have made any changes to the resource, a statement that this is a derivative work
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