Chapter 2: Copyright Law

Before entering this section, please note that none of the content provided is legal advice.

True legal advice regarding copyright should be sought through a proper copyright lawyer.

The Basics of Copyright Law

Copyright is the area of law that limits how others may access and use the original works of authors (or creators), works spanning the spectrum from novels and operas, corporate manuals, archives, cat videos, to scribbles on a napkin. There are variances from one country to another, but there are commonalities due to international treaties.


Purposes of Copyright

  1. Utilitarian: copyright is designed to provide an incentive to creators. The aim is to encourage the creation and publication of new works for social benefits; there are also economic benefits associated with copyright.
  2. Author’s rights: under this rationale, copyright protection serves to recognize and protect the deep connection authors have with their creative works. This rationale is founded upon moral rights, which ensure attribution for authors and preserve the integrity of creative works.


What is Copyrightable?

  • Copyright grants a set of exclusive rights to copyright owners, which means no one else can copy, distribute, publicly perform, adapt, or otherwise use the work without permission of the copyright holder.
  • Copyright provides economic and moral rights to the works.
  • Copyright grants rights to all works of literary authorship. All works must meet a certain standard of originality to warrant copyright. The work must have been a creation of its creator and not copied from another work.
  • Copyright does not protect facts or ideas, only the expression of those facts or ideas. While copyright gives creators control over their expression of an idea, it does not allow the copyright holder to own or exclusively control the idea itself.


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An OER Workshop by Andrea Bearman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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