So, now that you know what kinds of works are covered by copyright, what exactly are the rights granted to a copyright holder?
Six exclusive rights are granted to the creator of a copyrighted work. We call these the Author’s Bundle of Rights. This means the copyright holder is the only person who has the right to do these things and has the authority to grant permission for others to do these things, with some important exceptions that we will discuss later in this chapter.
If you are not the copyright holder and want to do any of the examples, you may need to get permission to do so from the holder of the copyright.
Author’s Bundle of Rights
- Example: Making physical and digital copies.
To Prepare Derivative Works
- Example: Creating foreign language translations, movie adaptation of a book, etc.
- Example: Sharing over Peer-to-Peer networks or posting online, as well as distributing physical copies.
To Perform Publicly
- Example: Performing a play, showing a movie, or reading aloud from a book to an audience outside of your normal circle of family or friends.
- Example: Playing recorded music in clubs, restaurants, stores, on the radio, etc.
To Display Publicly
- Example: Displaying in a gallery, putting posters on a noticeboard, etc.
To Perform Publicly a sound recording by means of a digital audio transmission
- Example: Streaming recording music online.
When Does Copyright Apply?
Under current U.S. law, copyright applies as soon as an original work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. This means that when you save a file, take a photograph, record a song, or paint a picture your work has copyright protection.
As the creator, provided that the work is not a work made for hire, you are the owner of the copyright on your work. You do not have to register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office, publish it, or put a copyright notice on it.
If you wish to give away, sell, or license any or all of the copyright on your work, you have the right to do so.
If you give away or sell your exclusive copyright to someone else, you no longer have the rights mentioned above and need to treat the work the same as any other copyrighted work created by someone else.
See Public Domain and Term of Copyright later in this section for details about the duration of copyright.
Exceptions to Copyright
U.S. Copyright Law includes exceptions that limit the rights of the copyright holder. These exceptions allow for certain uses of copyrighted material without seeking permission. Congress created these exceptions in order to balance the rights of creators and users and to enable some socially beneficial uses of copyrighted works.
Some of these exceptions are explained below.
Fair Use (Sec. 107) allows for various uses of copyrighted works. This is the most flexible of the exceptions in the copyright law and can apply in a wide variety of situations.
To learn more check out our section on Fair Use.
Reproduction for Libraries
Section 108 of the Copyright Act allows libraries and archives to make copies of copyrighted works under very specific conditions. For example, a patron can ask the library to make a copy of a journal article or portion of a book in the library’s collection as long as it is for the patron’s personal study.
First Sale Doctrine
The first sale doctrine (Sec. 109) allows you to distribute a legally acquired physical copy of a copyrighted work. This allows libraries to lend books and individuals to lend or sell used books, movies, or CDs.
Classroom Display or Performance
Under Section 110(1) it is okay to display or perform copyrighted works in a face-to-face classroom setting at a non-profit educational institution. This allows a teacher to show a video or students to create and display multimedia projects in class. Section 110(2) allows for the display or performance of copyrighted works for distance learning (e.g. on a course management system), but you must fulfill many specific requirements in order to qualify for this exception.