Copyright is the protection given to songs, computer programs, books, and other creative works; any work that has an “author” can be copyrighted. Under the terms of copyright, the author of a work controls what can be done with the work, including:
- Who can make copies of the work.
- Who can make derivative works from the original work.
- Who can perform the work publicly.
- Who can display the work publicly.
- Who can distribute the work.
Many times, a work is not owned by an individual but is instead owned by a publisher with whom the original author has an agreement. In return for the rights to the work, the publisher will market and distribute the work and then pay the original author a portion of the proceeds.
Copyright protection lasts for the life of the original author plus seventy years. In the case of a copyrighted work owned by a publisher or another third party, the protection lasts for ninety-five years from the original creation date. For works created before 1978, the protections vary slightly. You can see the full details on copyright protections by reviewing the Copyright Basics document available at the US Copyright Office’s website.