Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the creators of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of a copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
- to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;
- to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
- to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
- to perform and/or display the copyrighted work publicly; and
- in the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.
It is illegal for anyone to violate these rights. However, these rights are not unlimited in scope. In some cases they are limited by the doctrine of “fair use,” or by a “compulsory license” under which certain limited uses of copyrighted works are permitted in exchange for payment.