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What is copyright?

In simple terms, copyright is a form of legal protection that gives creative people — such as writers, musicians, artists and filmmakers — the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display or license their work. Copyright law is designed to promote creativity by making sure creators can profit from their work.

There are limits and exceptions to copyright, however. In the United States, for example, the fair use doctrine allows people to copy and distribute copyrighted materials under certain conditions. 

Why is it important to comply with copyright law?

  • If you don't, you could get in legal trouble and have to pay large fines - as in hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • On the flip side, the law also gives you the right to use copyrighted material under certain circumstances (for example, when writing a review or creating a parody), and you should exercise that right when it's appropriate.
In these webpages, you'll find questions and answers, definitions and links to other resources that may help you learn more about copyright and your rights and responsibilities under the law.

However, it's important for you to know that copyright law is complex, and interpretation of copyright law is subjective. Publishers or artists seeking to protect their work may have a different perspective from students or  educators looking to use it. There are no black-and-white answers when it comes to copyright.

Disclaimer: These webpages are designed to educate and inform students about copyright and should not be construed as legal advice.