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Copyright is a form of intellectual property that gives the author certain exclusive rights for a period of time to publish, distribute and adapt the work. Copyright is available for authorship of literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, paintings, sculptures, photographs, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.

The owner of the copyright has the following rights:

a. To make a copy and reproduce the work
b. Create another work based upon the original work, also known as a derivative work
c. Distribute the work in any manner including publishing and electronic distribution
d. Publicly perform the work
e. Publicly display the work


If a work is in the Public Domain, then no one owns that copyright and anyone may use it. However, a work that uses something in the public domain and adds to that work making a derivative of that work, is now a new work that can be copyrights.

Any work published on or before December 31, 1922 is now in the public domain.

Works published between January 1, 1923 and December 31, 1978, inclusive, are protected for a term of 95 years from the date of publication with the proper notice. But, if the work was published between 1923 and December 31, 1963, when there used to be a non-automatic "renewal term," the copyright owner may not have renewed the work. If he did not renew, the original term of protection of 28 years would be expired and these works will be in the public domain.

After 1978, it is no longer related to a date of publication but runs for 70 years from the date the author dies, known as the "life of the author" plus 70 years. It also doesn’t matter if it was published because works are protected whether they are published or not.

Works that were created before December 31, 1978, but never published, are now protected for the longer of life of the author plus 70 years or until December 31, 2002

The information provided in this article is not legal advice and no attorney-client or confidential relationship is or should be formed by use of this article.