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Copyright: Definitions

A collection of resources on the subject of copyright.

Copyright Definitions

Here you will find a list of definitions for the key terms related to copyright.

Author - An author is the creator of the original work. The author is usually the owner of the copyright unless they were hired to create the work or if they transferred their ownership of the copyright to another person or entity, such as a publisher.

Copyright Infringement - Copyright infringement occurs when a work is reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, performed, or a derivative work is created from the work without the express permission of the copyright owner.

Copyright Notice - Copyright notice consists of three elements: 1) the copyright symbol © 2) year of first publication and 3) the name of the owner of the copyright.  The correct format is - © 2010 John Smith.  The copyright date indicates the year that the work was created. If you see two dates on the copyright statement (Copyright © 2010, 2011 John Smith), it indicates that part of the work was created one year and modified later.

Derivative Work - A derivative work is a work that contains elements from a preexisting copyrighted work.  A derivative work is only copyrightable if it contains original works of authorship.  The copyright for the derivative work will only cover the additions and changes that differ from the preexisting work.

Trademark - A trademark (or servicemark) is a word, brand name, logo, symbol or device used to indicate the source of goods.  Trademarks can be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and will protect the words, phrases and logos used in commerce. 

Patent - A patent grants property rights to an inventor for his intellectual property, and is issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Public Domain - A work is considered in the public domain if is it not protected by copyright and not subject to copyright restrictions. This material may be used without permission, but the original source should still be credited. These are usually older materials and U.S. government publications.