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Scholarly Communication Services - Copyright: Essentials


Copyright protects the rights of creators who make an original work in a fixed medium (U.S. Copyright Office, 2016). It also allows creators (or owners of copyright) to distribute, perform, reproduce, display, sell, or make derivatives of their work.

Basic knowledge of copyright is essential for students, researchers, and anyone else who wants to protect their intellectual work.  It is also important in order to ethically (and legally) re-use the work of others.


Copyright protects the fixed expression of ideas, such as:

Copyright does not protect ideas on their own, such as:


  • Literary works
  • Musical works
  • Dramatic works
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Motion picture and other audio-visual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works

  • Facts
  • Procedures
  • Processes
  • Systems
  • Method of operation
  • Concept
  • Principle or discovery

Need copyright information for teaching and learning purposes?  See the following LibGuide:

Disclaimer:  The FAU Libraries and its faculty, staff, and administration are not attorneys and cannot interpret the law.  This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not substitute for advice from legal counsel. 

Source:  U.S. Copyright Office (2016).  Copyright law of the United States

Also in This Guide:

Copyright Essentials

Federal Laws

Copyright and Related Concepts in Plain Language

Public Domain, Creative Commons, and Free Cultural Works

Applying for Copyright & Reusing Copyrighted Work

The FAU Libraries does not secure permissions to reuse copyrighted work*.  Consult the following links for guidance.

*Exceptions: items added to Course Reserves and requested for Interlibrary Loan.

Searching for Copyright Holders

Copyright in Higher Education

Copyright Clearance Center (2017, September 28).  Copyright is essential [Video]. YouTube. 

TEACH Act and Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

International Copyright

There is no international copyright law, and copyright is treated differently among various countries.  However, international treaties have harmonized copyright so that some copyright principles have baseline characteristics among the countries that signed a treaty.  For example, the Berne Convention established that copyright protections can last for the lifetime of its creator plus 50 years as a baseline (Smith, Gilliland, and Mackay, 2012).

International copyright and treaties related to it are administered by Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  See the links below for additional information about international copyright.

Source: Smith, K., Macklin, L.A., & Gilliland, A. (2012). Copyright for educators and librarians [Online course]. Coursera.

Copyright @ FAU

Books in the Library