Copyright is a form of legal protection for creators of original works that are "fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed" (17 USC §102). In other words, if you have an idea for an article, a painting, or a dance, you have no copyright until you've written the article, painted the painting, or recorded someone performing the dance. However, once your work is "fixed in any tangible medium of expression," you have copyright interests in your work whether it is published or not. This guide only provides information about copyright law in the United States; copyright law in other countries differs from United States copyright law in a variety of ways.
Copyright does NOT apply to facts, ideas, data, representations of data (graphs, charts, tables), processes, systems, methods, procedures, titles, works prepared by the United States Government, constitutions and laws of state governments, or materials in the public domain. (For more about the public domain, visit our page about legal rights and licenses.)
This guide will help connect you with information about different aspects of copyright, including:
PLEASE NOTE: The information presented here is for informational purposes only and should NOT be construed as legal advice. If you are looking for legal advice or legal counsel, please contact the University of Maine Office of General Counsel.
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