What is Copyright?
You have likely noticed small text under a photo on a website with the notice: © John Doe 2022. That familiar designation is an indication that the photo is protected by copyright.
The concept of copyright, as we know and practice it in the United States, is embedded in the Constitution. Article I Section 8 states “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
The purpose of this website is to provide a reference for general copyright principles, University of Washington copyright policy, as well as resources for further research into copyright.
Finding Information on Copyright Resource
Use Copyright Resource to orient yourself to the key areas of the law by using the search aides found below.
Learn how to determine copyright ownership as well as secure permissions and licenses for legally incorporating the work of others.
Learn the legal fundamentals of copyright and the protective measures to take as an owner of copyright-protected work.
Learn about specific legislation, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the TEACH Act, and various international treaties which help shape copyright law and UW policies.
Learn more about the UW copyright policies that reflect the university’s mission to seek knowledge for the general benefit and how UW protects the scholarly work of faculty and researchers.
In general, intellectual property refers to creations of the mind. Copyright is a type of intellectual property that protects original works of authorship when the author fixes the work in a tangible form of expression. Examples of works which may fall under copyright protection include photographs, novels, films, graphics, musical compositions, computer software, and architecture. United States copyright law provides copyright owners with the following exclusive rights:
- Reproduce the work
- Prepare derivative works based on the original work
- Distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership or license
- Perform the work publicly
- Display the work publicly
- Perform the work publicly by means of a digital sound transmission if the work is a sound recording
The duration of copyright protection is dependent on when the work was created. All works created after January 1, 1978 have a copyright term for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. While copyright exists in common law the moment that an original work of authorship is fixed in a tangible medium, this website will provide sources on registering works with the U.S. Copyright Office so that rights may be enforced to maximum statutory effect.