n. (abbr. c.)a legal right protecting the interests of creators or their assignees by granting them control over the reproduction, publication, adaptation, exhibition, or performance of their works in fixed mediaPeterson and Peterson 1985, 82Since all works are now automatically copyrighted upon creation (often described as “from the moment you lift your pencil”), the archivist must presume that, unless the copyright has been donated or sold to the archives, every item in the holdings that comes from a nonfederal source is copyrighted and reproduction could be an infringement of the copyright.Maher 2001, 65To do so, archivists must understand the nature of copyright and its impact on use so that when a researcher wants to utilize the information we hold in order to expand knowledge or benefit society, he or she will be able to do so without the encumbrance of the rusty chains of old rights holders.US CBO 2004, 1Copyright 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.Behrnd-Klodt 2008, 204Codified in Title 17 of the United States Code, copyright law protects the expression of ideas in creative works while it provides incentives to draw on existing materials to create new 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.