Classroom Copyright Chart
This is the "Copyright and IPR: the Basics" page of the "Copyright & Public Domain: Images, Music, Creative Commons" guide.
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Copyright & Public Domain: Images, Music, Creative Commons  

This libguide offers information on copyright law as well as both copyrighted and free images. A listing of public domain music is also included.
Last Updated: Apr 16, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Copyright and IPR: the Basics Print Page

What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) to authors, publishers and the public. The owner of copyright has the exclusive right to do and authorize the following:

  • To reproduce the work;
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
  • To distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  • To prohibit other persons from using the work without permission;
  • To perform the work publicly.

Copyright protection covers  publishedand unpublished works as well as out-of-print materials. It covers analog and digital media.

Facts, ideas, procedures, processes, systems, concepts, principles or discoveries cannot be copyrighted.  However, some of these can be protected by patent or trade secret laws.

Copyright protection currently lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.  If there is more than one author copyright protection lasts for the life of the last author's death plus 70 years.  Copyright protection for materials created by a business may last for 95 years from publication.

Copyright protects the following eight categories of works:

  1. literary works
  2. musical works
  3. dramatic works
  4. pantomimes and choreographic works
  5. pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  6. motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  7. sound recordings
  8. architectural works

Copyrighted works may be used without the direct permission of the author or the copyright owner in very specific conditions. These conditions are labeled "fair use." Fair use, however, does not cover just any use at all by anyone for just any purpose.  (See the Fair Use section for more information).


How long does copyright last?

  • Literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works are protected for 70 years after the death of the author
  • Typographic copyright is 25 years from publication
  • Sound recordings are protected for 50 years after they are published or performed
  • Photographs, official publications and unpublished works have different rules

What does copyright law recognise as art?

One of a series of practical videos for artists from Artquest.



This Library Guide has been written to provide general, practical guidance on copyright matters and cannot be relied upon as a comprehensive or official statement of the law, or of the legal obligations of individuals with respect to copyright.


Public Domain

Copyright Term and Public Domain in the United States 

Public Domain= Free! MUSIC, TEXT, AND ART!! COPY ALL YOU WANT!!  If a book, song, movie, or artwork is in the public domain, then it is not protected by intellectual property laws (copyright, trademark, or patent laws)—which means it’s free for you to use without permission. Most work enters the Public Domain when it falls out of copyright. This includes any work published in the United States before 1923 or works published before 1964 for which copyrights were not renewed. (Renewal was a requirement for works published before 1978.) A smaller group of works fell into the public domain because they were published without a copyright notice, which was necessary for works published in the United States before March 1, 1989. Some works are in the public domain because the owner has indicated a desire to give them to the public without copyright protection. As discussed throughout this chapter, the rules establishing the public domain status for each of these types of works are different. 

*Click here to see specifics to determine if work is in the Public Domian


Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is the term used to describe the legal rights associated with Intellectual Property (IP). IP comes out of scientific, literary or artistic endeavour. Some rights are automatic (e.g. copyright) and others have to be secured through formal application or registration (e.g. patents). Copyright is just one of the Intellectual Property Rights. The main categories are:

  • Patents
  • Confidential information
  • Copyright
  • Trademarks
  • Performance Rights
  • Design Rights


Podcast: Patent Pending: A History of Intellectual Property

Brought to you by Backstory with the American History Guys, this podcast delves into the history of IP in America.


Copyright and images

Struck gold? Just because an image is available online, it doesn't necessarily mean you can use it. Discover more about using images in your work.

B.O. Holtermann (2nd from left), Richard Ormsby Kerr (centre) and Beyers (2nd from right), with reef gold from Star of Hope mine, 1871-1875 / American & Australasian Photographic Company

B.O. Holtermann (2nd from left), Richard Ormsby Kerr (centre) and Beyers (2nd from right), with reef gold from Star of Hope mine, 1871-1875 / American & Australasian Photographic Company.


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