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SME Library Resources: What is Copyright?

What is Copyright?

  • Copyright is a form of legal protection for authors of original works intended to foster creative expression by promoting "the progress of science and useful arts" (U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8).
  • Any original expression is automatically copyright protected as soon as it is fixed in a tangible form (paper, computer file, video recording, etc.).  
  • Copyright protection may apply to text, photographs, graphics, cartoons, music, movie clips, etc., in print and digital formats.
  • Generally, copyright provides the author control of the use, alteration, copying, distribution, performance, and sale of the work.
  • Neither publication nor registration is essential for a work to be copyright protected, even if no © notice or warning is displayed.