Skip to Main Content
Baker University logo


What is copyright?

The Copyright Law, Title 17 of the US Code, lists five rights that an author has as soon as the work is fixed in a tangible form. They include the rights to the following:

  • Copy the work
  • Distribute or publish the work
  • Create derivative works (a screen play, abridgement, translation and so on)
  • Display the work publicly
  • Perform the work

What is eligible for copyright protection?

The original creation of an author. For purposes of registration, the copyright office categorizes works as literary (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, articles, periodicals), visual (artwork, illustrations, jewelry, fabric, architecture), performance (music, lyrics, sound recordings, scripts, stage plays), photographic (news photos, selfies, wedding photos, family photos), motion pictures (movies, TV shows, animation, videos), and digital content (computer programs, databases, blogs, websites, video games).

How can I tell if something is protected by copyright?

A number of factors determine whether an item is protected or not including the following:

  • Whether it carries a copyright notice
  • Whether it is registered with the Copyright Office
  • Date of publication
  • Date of registration or renewal
Because it is complicated and the law has changed over time, we recommend you check one of these two charts to help you determine if an item is covered:
To see if a copyright was registered or renewed after 1978, check:

Asking for Permission

  • Many publishers have copyright contact information on their web pages. It is wise to retain copies of your correspondence and if you correspond by mail, be sure to use letterhead and include a stamped, self-addressed envelope. For your convenience, Collins Library has developed a:

Penalties: What's at stake?

The copyright law provides for either actual or statutory damages if the courts find that infringement has taken place. The amounts of statutory damage awards differ based on whether the infringement was willful or innocent, as follows from these excerpts from Section 504c:

  1. … an award of statutory damages for all infringements involved in the action, with respect to any one work, for which any one infringer is liable individually, or for which any two or more infringers are liable jointly and severally, in a sum of not less than $750 or more than $30,000 as the court considers just.
  2. …the court finds, that infringement was committed willfully, the court in its discretion may increase the award of statutory damages to a sum of not more than $150,000. In a case where … such infringer was not aware and had no reason to believe that his or her acts constituted an infringement of copyright, the court in its discretion may reduce the award of statutory damages to a sum of not less than $200.