This web guide presents general information about copyright law for educational purposes. The library makes every effort to assure the accuracy of this information but does not offer it as legal counsel or advice. Consult the services of a licensed attorney for advice concerning your specific situation.
If you have questions, please contact Lori Ricigliano.
Copyright protects works of authorship, including:
What is not protected by copyright?
As a general rule, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first. For works first published prior to 1978, the term will vary depending on several factors.
After the copyright term expires, works enter the public domain (see chart) and can be used without permission. Also try these interactive tools to determine whether a work is protected by copyright:
Public Domain Slider Tool to quickly identify if a work is in the public domain.
The Copyright Genie Tool to help you find out if a work is covered by U.S. copyright, calculate its terms of protection, and publish the results (as a PDF) to save for your records