11-Copyright Basics

Rights Granted by Copyright

So, now that you know what kinds of works are covered by copyright, what exactly are the rights granted to a copyright holder?

Five 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.

If you are not the copyright holder and want to do any of the activities on the right, you may need to get permission to do so from the holder of the copyright.

Author’s Bundle of Rights

To Reproduce

  • Making physical and digital copies

To Prepare Derivative Works

  • Creating foreign language translations, movie adaptation of a book, etc.

To Distribute

  • Sharing over Peer-to-Peer networks or posting online, as well as distributing physical copies

To Display Publicly

  • Displaying in a gallery, putting posters on a noticeboard, etc.
  • To Perform Publicly (for literary, musical, dramatic and other audiovisual works)

Performing a play, showing a movie, broadcasting on TV, reading aloud from a book, etc.

  • To Perform Publicly (for sound recordings, to perform by means of digital audio transmission)
  • Playing recorded music in clubs, restaurants, stores, on the radio, etc.

Activity: Author Rights

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When Does Copyright Apply?

Under current U.S. law, copyright applies as soon as a 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.