What Do I Own?

What Do I Own?
Policy Ownership Scenarios

The copyright owner is the person or entity who owns the exclusive rights of a work. The copyright owner could be the author, the publisher, or another person or entity having legal ownership of one or more of the exclusive rights.

Copyright is the protection of original works from the moment they are created in a tangible medium, and it applies whether they are published, unpublished, or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

These works include:

  • Literary works (almost all text-based media, including computer code)
  • Musical works, including any accompanying words
  • Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works

Rights of the Owner

Section 106 of the U.S. copyright law gives the owner of a copyright the exclusive rights to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  • reproduce the work
  • prepare derivative works based upon the work
  • distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
  • perform the work publicly
  • display the copyrighted work publicly

Unprotected Materials

Copyright protection does not extend to the following:

  • Works for which the copyright has expired.
  • Works federal government employees produced within the scope of their employment.
  • Works clearly and explicitly donated to the public domain.
  • Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression (for example, choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded, or spontaneous speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded).
  • Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents.
  • Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration.
  • Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and contains no original authorship (for example, standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources).