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And Then There's Copyright

Copyright is a body of legal rights that ensures that the person who creates a work--whether it is a book, an article, a piece of music, a graphic, a dance, or even a website--is protected from unlawful reproduction and distribution of his or her intellectual work. (In other words, having their work stolen!)


Only the owner of the copyrighted work may change, reproduce, perform, display, or distribute it. Without copyright protection, there would be no economic incentive to create these works.

Although the owner of the copyrighted work has exclusive rights to the work, a provision known as fair use allows for reproduction of small amounts of copyrighted material. Reproduction is allowed under fair use when it has very little impact on the value of the intellectual work.

An example of fair use is quoting from a website or a magazine article in a paper you are writing for a college course. In this case you must acknowledge the original work by providing a citation for the source.

Most information is protected by copyright. The exception is work that is in the "public domain". This type of information may be reproduced or used by anyone, but it is still necessary to credit the source. Some examples of public domain sources:

Public Domain Sources Examples
Works produced and published by the U.S. Government Statistical Abstract of the United States

Works where copyright has been waived by the author Software called freeware
Works on which the copyright has expired An 1866 edition of Hamlet by William Shakespeare

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