According to the Copyright Office, copyright is defined as a way to protect original and tangible works of authorship for both published and unpublished works.
Copyright can protect literary, dramatic, artistic, or musical works.
It does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation.
Find more about general copyright information from the U.S. Copyright Office. Information found here includes the differences between a patent, trademark, and copyrighted work, duration of protection, registration, and more.
According to the U.S. Copyright Office, fair use is the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances.
The four factors of fair use are:
Please see the U.S. Office of Copyright for More Information on Fair Use.
According to the U.S. Copyright Office, "A work of authorship is in the “public domain” if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner."
Under current U.S. copyright law, every January 1 until 2073, works published before 1978 enter the public domain:
After 2073, copyright will expire 70 years after the death of the creator.
Many of these public domain works are available through Hathi Trust, Google Books, and Internet Archive.
The TEACH Act (Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act) attempts to give distance instructors the same opportunities to show copyrighted works in their classroom as a face-to-face instructor would have.
Requirements of the TEACH Act:
Once a work is created and available, it's protected by copyright. Registering for copyright is voluntary, but according to the U.S. Copyright Office, it can be beneficial if the creator wishes to bring a lawsuit for infringement.
The difference between patents, trademarks, and copyrighted materials is that copyright protects literary, dramatic, or musical works or information. Patents usually protect inventions. Trademarks protect either a word, phrase, symbol, or design or any combination of those.