This is the "What is Protected by Copyright?" page of the "Copyright Basics" guide.
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Copyright Basics  

An overview of basic information about U.S. Copyright Law for Gallaudet University students, faculty, and staff.
Last Updated: Jun 2, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

What is Protected by Copyright? Print Page

What is Protected by Copyright?

Most creative work is protected by copyright:

  • books
  • journal articles
  • films/videos
  • poetry
  • art
  • music
  • musical performances
  • software
  • photographs
For something to be protected by copyright the law requires that it must be "in a fixed medium of tangible expression." That means it must be written down or recorded in some way. Ideas are not protected by copyright.  

This page has examples of the types of works that might be protected by copyright. But if they are protected by copyright how are we able to reproduce them here? Many copyrighted materials may be reproduced in some circumstances, and each example includes a brief explanation about that. 



What is NOT protected by Copyright?

Works not protected by copyright are in the public domain.  That means they "belong" to everyone and may be reproduced by anyone for any purpose. Works in the public domain include works produced by the federal government -- reports, articles, maps, charts, photographs, etc.  


How Do I Know if Something is Copyrighted?

Works created before March 1, 1989 must have a copyright notice (a symbol or a statement) in order to be protected by copyright. A copyright notice is not required on works produced after March 1, 1989. And that means you must assume anything created after that date IS copyrighted.   



Johannes Vermeer's A Lady and Two Gentlemen

This painting is in the public domain.





The owner of this image allows it to be used as long as it includes a link to the original.  




This is an open source video from the Internet Archive.



This Living Hand

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calmed - see here it is -
I hold it towards you. 

John Keats

This poem is in the public domain.


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