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Creative Commons: Basics of Copyright

For Students, Faculty members, and Librarians

Legal Statement

The information contained in this guide is educational and not to be use as legal advice.

If you are seeking legal advice, please contact Intellectual Property/Copyright attorney.

Some books on Copyright in the Ozuna Library

Copyright Intellectual property Fair use
Copyright law Infringement  


Palomino horse    Palomino Search

Palomino Search

Palomino horse    Palomino Search

How a person receives copyright protection for their work.

A person receives copyright protection for their work the moment the work becomes fixed in a tangible form in the U.S.


Other countries require registration of the work to have copyright protection.

Creative commons (2020) p. 16

Exceptions and limitations to copyright law.





fair use

compulsory licensing

teaching and scholarship

precise listing of activities

criticism and commentary

market value



equality of access



Creative commons (2020) pp. 31 - 34

The purpose of copyright

Two main purposes of copyright:

  • One purpose is the right of a creator to control how their work will be used, distributed, and passed on to others.

  • The other purpose is an economic one about providing incentives of develop creative work.

  • Copyright is to protect the expression of facts and ideas. Not the facts or ideas themselves.

  • Copyright in the U.S. is automatic the moment something become fixed in a tangible medium.

  • In the U.S. copyright last the life of the creator plus 70 years.

  • Copyright is also a balancing act between the creator and public interest.

Creative commons (2020) pp.17-18

What is copyrightable and what is not.



Is Not

original creations

facts and names


lettering and coloring


short phrases and slogans


symbols and designs


listing of ingredients or contents

computer software

works by the U.S. government


works that copyright has expired


public domain


Copyright Clearance Center (2021)

What is public domain?

Public domain is:

  • Works that copyright has expired.

  • Works that did not have a copyright to them. 

  • Works that are in the interest to communities as a whole.

  • Works that can be freely copied, shared, altered by anyone.

Vector illustration of a public domain sign. Black and white drawing of a symbol for content without copyright. Public domain

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Susan Puccio
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Relationship between copyright and other methods that protect intellectual property.

The definition of intellectual property (IP):

  • A type of property that involves intangible human creativity.

  • Two types of IP are trademarks and patents.

  • Copyright is under the umbrella of intellectual property.

Creative commons (2020) p. 22

List of Creative Commons Licenses

The figures used throughout this page are CC-licensed works or are available in the public domain. The list below includes the URLs for each CC license or public domain tool referenced in the figures, so you can easily navigate to the appropriate license.

Public domain clipart

U. S. Copyright Office

The U.S. Copyright Office is part of the Library of Congress and in addition to registering copyright claims, this office provides information on all things copyright.  Some useful links on their websites:




Copyright Clearance Center. (1995-2022). So, what is (and isn’t) protected by copyright?,listings%20of%20ingredients%20or%20contents


Creative commons for educators and librarians (Creative Commons, Comp.) [PDF]. (2020). Unit 2: Copyright law. ALA Editions.