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Frequently Asked Questions


What rights do authors and creators have under copyright law?


Copyright law provides authors and creators the right to be compensated when others copy and use their work. The rights granted by the Copyright Act benefit "authors" of "original works of authorship", including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural and audiovisual creations. Nearly all creative works someone might create, including books, magazines, journals, newsletters, maps, charts, photographs, graphic materials, and other printed materials; unpublished materials, such as analysts' and consultants' reports; and non-print materials, including electronic content, computer programs and other software, sound recordings, motion pictures, video files, sculptures, and other artistic works-are protected by copyright. Copyright law provides authors and creators with control over the use of their creations and gives them the ability to benefit, monetarily and otherwise, from the use of their work. The owner of a copyright has the exclusive right to do, and to authorize third parties to do, any of the following:
  1. reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;
  2. prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
  3. distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  4. in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, perform the copyrighted work publicly; and
  5. in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, display the copyrighted work publicly.
Copyrights are not always owned by the author or creator of the work. For example, authors often agree to assign their copyright to the publisher of their work. Even the author of a work will have to obtain permissions from the copyright holder if they do not retain some rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, display or prepare derivative works as a part of their agreement with the publisher.

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