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What is copyright?

Copyright grants legal protection to creators of ‘works of the mind’, such as authors and artists. To qualify, the works must be original and ‘fixed’ in some way, for example, written down or recorded. Copyright protection is automatic: no registration is required. Copyright applies to all types of works e.g. books, journals, letters, music, photographs, film, databases, maps, technical drawings, and so on. It applies to works that are published and unpublished in any format. e.g. print, audio-visual, digital, online or offline, DVD, mp3, etc.

Two types of rights are granted: economic rights that can be transferred or assigned to a publisher, an employer or a collecting society for example, and moral rights that are inalienable.

The rights are limited in their scope and effect. They do not apply to ideas and facts, news of the day nor, in some countries, to texts of a legislative, administrative and legal nature. The term of protection is limited, for example, for literary works the standard term is life of the author plus 50 years. The public at large has the right to make quotations from protected works (subject to fair practice). In addition, certain specific uses that differ from country to country may be exempted e.g. preservation by libraries and archives, illustration for teaching purposes.

Rights related to copyright (also known as neighbouring rights) include those for the protection of performing artists, phonogram producers, and broadcasting organizations.

Learn more: Copyright for Librarians