What is Copyright?
Copyright is a set of rights provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, audiovisual and certain other works, including software.
This protection is available to both published and unpublished works that are fixed in a tangible medium. Copyright does not protect ideas; it protects the expression of ideas.
The law gives the owner of copyright the following exclusive rights:
- To reproduce the work (i.e. to make copies);
- To prepare derivative works (i.e. to make a movie from a book or to translate a work into another language);
- To distribute copies publicly;
- To perform the work publicly (i.e. a play or movie);
- To display the work publicly; and
- In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.
The owner of the copyright may transfer all or part of these rights to others. See the page on Author Rights.
Subject to some exceptions described in this guide (including fair use), if a person exercises any of these rights in another’s work without permission, the person may be liable for copyright infringement.
These sites have in-depth information about the issues summarized in this guide:
Selected Additional Resources in the Boston College Libraries
Ask Policy Questions
If you have a question about the University’s policies regarding copyright, please contact the Office of Technology Transfer and Licensing at 2-1682. If you have a question that requires the advice of an attorney, please contact the Office of the General Counsel at 2-0960.