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Arkansas State University

Copyright: Copyright

This guide is intended to give you basic information about copyright.


For any specific questions regarding copyright, please contact the A-State general counsel at: Brad Phelps, General Counsel, Arkansas State University System at

To view the university's policy on intellectual property, including copyright, see the A-State document on "Intellectual Property".

Copyright Office


As students and faculty, you are often faced with issues concerning the use of materials created by others.  This includes materials for the classroom, Canvas, and even your research papers. The Copyright Law is designed to protect the rights of the original author or creator. However, the law, written into the U.S. Constitution, also allowed the continued flow of news, information, education, and criticism. But it is not always easy to make sense of what you can and cannot use. In what cases can you use copyrighted material without asking permission? And in what cases, must you seek permission?

This guide will show you information on copyright and issues pertaining to the use of copyrighted materials. However, this guide does not supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.

Copyright basics

What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. It is the expression of the work not the idea or concept that is protected by copyright. In addition, this protection covers both published and unpublished works. (A book would be a published work while a personal diary would be an unpublished work, along with manuscripts or drafts of papers.)

Copyright protection exists from the moment a work is fixed in a tangible form of expression. (This could include a DVD, CD, even a napkin with writing on it).

Copyright is the right granted by law to an author or creator to control the use of the work created. This allows the owner of the copyrighted material to:

  •  Make copies
  •  Distribute copies (including using the internet)
  •  Prepare derivatives versions based on the original work (Harry Potter series)
  •  Perform the work publicly
  •  Display the work publicly

What is protected?

    Under the copyright act, section 102, the following is protected:

  • Literature
  • Music and lyrics
  • Drama
  • Pantomime and dance
  • Pictures, graphics, sculpture
  • Films
  • Sound recordings
  • Architecture
  • Software

What is a "copy"?

    A copy is the reproduction of an original work, here are some examples of what would be considered a "copy":

  • A photocopy of a printed work
  • A video recording of a broadcast television show
  • A song downloaded to your phone
  • A scan of a printed work or image
  • A duplicate or backup of a software stored on a jump drive or hard drive

Is linking copying?

Linking to an image or public website is not copying.  Linking to an online web page, image, or document is just leading the viewer to that available resource. While you should still cite and give attribution to the owner of the website, it is not usually required to request permission to link to a publicly available website.

What is public domain?

Public domain refers to works that have had their copyright expired, given up, or that copyright doesn't apply to (such as government publications). Works in the public domain can be freely used without permission.