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Copyright Owners' Rights

Initial ownership of copyright generally belongs to the author(s) or creator(s). The term "copyright" really refers to a bundle of six exclusive rights conferred on the owner. The copyright owner has the exclusive right to:

  • Reproduce a work
  • Prepare derivative works based on the original
  • Distribute reproductions
  • Perform the work
  • Display the work
  • In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission (e.g., webcasting).

The copyright owner(s) may transfer or license one or more of these rights to others for a specific period of time or in perpetuity.

In the case of works created by employees during the course of and within the scope of their employment, the employer is considered to be the author. Section 101 of the U.S. copyright law defines such work as "work made for hire."

There are nine other highly-specific examples of works made for hire contained in Section 101 of the U.S. copyright law, all of which must be specially ordered or commissioned under a written agreement: contributions to collective works, parts of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, translations, supplementary works, compilations, instructional texts, tests, answer materials for tests, and atlases.

Essentially, it is illegal for someone other than the copyright owner or licensee to exercise these rights. However, several exceptions and limitations to these rights are granted in Sections 107 through 122, in Chapter 1 of the U.S. copyright law.


Content in this page was used or adapted with permission from one or more institutions. Please see acknowledgements.

Information in this page was reviewed and approved by legal counsel. Please see disclaimer. Review date: October 2006.
Related Links:

Secure/Retain Your Rights (includes information about transferring your copyright)

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