US Copyright law gives the creator of a work a number of exclusive rights "to promote the Progress of Science and the Useful Arts (US Constitution, Article 1, Section 8). Copyright protection must contain three elements: the work is original, minimally creative, and fixed in a tangible format. Examples of works that fall under copyright protection include written works like books and articles, audio recordings, images, art works, motion pictures, and choreography. However, copyright does not include objects with a useful functionality like industrial design, lists, clothing, or recipes. It also does not include works by the federal government or federal and state laws. Copyright protection has a fixed term (at present 70 years after the death of the author or 120 years in the case of works created for hire by a corporation), but there are exceptions to these rules. At the end of the term, the work enters the public domain and can be freely used without license or permission.
In certain circumstances, limited amounts of copyrighted material can be used without infringing on the rights of the creator of a work. For a use to be considered fair use, 4 factors have to be assessed to determine if the use is eligible:
A fifth factor is often included in this assessment: does the use "transform" the work in a significant way by adding something new or giving a further purpose. Slides for lectures, illustrations to articles, and parodies are generally thought to be transformative uses.
Greenberg, Ed, Jack Reznicki, and Ohio Library and Information Network. The copyright zone: a legal guide for photographers and artists in the digital age, Focal Press, Burlington, MA, 2015.doi:10.4324/9781315777016.
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