n. (c., abbr.)A property right that protects the interests of authors or other creators of works in tangible media (or the individual or organization to whom copyright has been assigned) by giving them the ability to control the reproduction, publication, adaptation, exhibition, or performance of their works.


In the United States, copyright is provided for by the Constitution (Article I, Section 8) and is codified by the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 USC 101-1332. Internationally, copyright is defined by the Berne Convention, which the United States joined in 1989.Copyright protects the owner's interests in the intellectual property (content), rather than in the physical property that serves as a container for the content. For example, an archives may own a collection of papers, but the author retains copyright.As property, copyright can be transferred or inherited, hence the owner of a work's copyright may not be the work's creator. Those works may be in a wide range of media, including literary works; 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; and architectural works. Copyright does not protect any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery in such works; it only protects their tangible manifestation.


US CBO 2004, p. 1 Copyright grants to creators exclusive rights over their original works. After a copyright expires, the creative work enters the public domain and may be used freely. Copyright law is thus characterized by the balance [it] seeks to achieve between private incentives to engage in creative activity and the social benefits deriving from the widespread use of creative works.