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The information on this page provides a brief description of the main requirements involved in copyrighting an original work of authorship.  Additional resources regarding more comprehensive educational materials on the copyright subject are available in the sidebar. 


  • A copyright grants the creating author the legal right to exclude others from copying, licensing, and otherwise exploiting original literary, musical, or artistic work, whether printed, audio, video, etc.
  • Copyright Term – Copyright protection exists for the lifetime of the author or creator and for a period of 70 years after the author/creator’s death.

Official Protection

  1. Since 1978, a revised federal statute established copyright protection in an original work of authorship as soon as it is fixed in a tangible medium of expression (such as a manuscript, audio tape, or computer file).
  2. Former statutory requirements, such as copyright registration with the US Copyright Office and use of the © copyright notice marks on works, are currently useful mainly as prerequisites to infringement proceedings to enforce copyright rights or recover damages for unauthorized use.
    1. For example, Boston College faculty and staff add “© Trustees of Boston College” to works.

Fair Use Exceptions

  1. Limited copying for the purpose of criticism, comment, teaching, scholarship, or research is typically regarded as the exception to established copyright protection rather than infringement of copyright.
    1. Examples of actions that are not typically defined as copyright infringement:
      • Copying one chapter from a book for personal use, or
      • Spontaneously making multiple copies of a section of a copyrighted work for immediate classroom use (not for web-based distribution).
    2. Examples of actions that are more typically defined as copyright infringement:
      • Copying an entire book for personal use,
      • Making copies of a copyrighted work for classroom distribution in consecutive years, or
      • Making multiple unauthorized copies when there was time to secure permission of the copyright holder.