Quicklists

What is Copyright?

When a person creates an original work that is fixed in a physical medium, he or she automatically owns copyright to the work. The owner has the exclusive right to use the work in certain, specific ways.

Which types of work are subject to copyright?

  • Audiovisual works, such as TV shows, movies, and online videos
  • Sound recordings and musical compositions
  • Written works, such as lectures, articles, books, and musical compositions
  • Visual works, such as paintings, posters, and advertisements
  • Video games and computer software
  • Dramatic works, such as plays and musicals

Ideas, facts, and processes are not subject to copyright. In order to be eligible for copyright protection, a work must be both creative and fixed in a tangible medium. Names and titles are not, by themselves, subject to copyright.

Can I use a copyright-protected work without infringing?

In some circumstances, it is possible to use a copyright-protected work without infringing the owner’s copyright. For more about this, you may want to learn about fair use.

Your video can still be claimed by a copyright owner, even if you have...

  • Given credit to the copyright owner
  • Refrained from monetizing the infringing video
  • Noticed similar videos that appear on YouTube
  • Purchased the content on iTunes, a CD, or DVD
  • Recorded the content yourself from TV, a movie theater, or the radio
  • Stated that “no copyright infringement is intended"

Is copyright the same as trademark?

Copyright is just one form of intellectual property. It's not the same as trademark, which protects brand names, mottos, logos, and other source identifiers from being used by others for certain purposes. It is also different from patent law, which protects inventions.

What is the difference between copyright and privacy?

Just because you appear in a video, image, or audio recording does not mean you own the copyright to it. For example, if your friend filmed a conversation between the two of you, she would own the copyright to that video recording. The words the two of you are speaking are not subject to copyright separately from the video itself, unless they were fixed in advance.