No, not everything is protected and no, it is not necessary to register your work to protect it. However, if you find it necessary to file an infringement suit, your copyright must be registered (click here for current fees to register and click here for registration forms).
Ideas and thoughts are not protected and facts are not, e.g., President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. The expression of those ideas, thoughts, and facts in any tangible form are protected. Such expression may be either in the written or spoken form and include (but not limited to) photographs, drawings, paintings, fiction, non-fiction, music compositions, poetry, computer programs, films, and other tangible items.
Any individual item or piece of work created and recorded in any of the above mentioned forms is considered a "work of authorship."
"Exceptions" to this copyright ownership may occur when an individual creates the work as part of his or her employment or the work has been created or contracted out as a "work for hire."
Although the current law says registering your work is not necessary, there are three things that you should include on your work: 1) the copyright symbol (©) for printed material and a P with a circle around it for recordings (℗) 2) the date you first published the material, 3) the name of the author or copyright owner. Example: © 2007 Jane Doe or ℗ 2007 LMN Recordings, Inc.
There are several revisions to the copyright law and several significant dates, but generally, works published before 1989 without copyright notice are not protected.
No. Currently (after 1989), even without registration and notice, a work is protected for 70 years after the death of the author. Generally works that were created before 1923 are no longer protected and are in the public domain. Anything published between 1923 and 1978 without a notice and registration is in the public domain. Anything between 1978 and March 1, 1989 published without notice but with subsequent registration is protected for 70 years after the death of the author. (For a more detailed explanation, see the government brochure on Copyright Basics).
Fair Use, The Teach Act, and Classroom Instruction<
The Copyright Act was established to protect authors and their works from exploitation; however, there are limitations (fair use) that apply. There are four of these limitations that educators in particular must pay close attention to. Why educators? Because educators are most likely to employ fair use when they find it necessary to use copyrighted works without permission in the act of teaching.
Those four limitations or factors that must be considered when applying fair use as indicated in § 107 U.S. Copyright Law, Title 17 Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use are:
If an instructor follows the general guidelines of "brevity, spontaneity, and cumulative effect," then making multiple copies of copyrighted works for use in a course is permissible. However, instructors cannot include these copies in a "course pack" or use them repeatedly in subsequent semesters without permission from the copyright holder.
As with printed material, the copyright holder has the rights to the public display or performance of his or her work. In summary, §110 U.S. Copyright Law, Title 17: Limitations on exclusive rights: Exemption of certain performances and displays, allows an instructor to publicly display or perform a work provided that:
None of the above applies if the instructor or institution knows or suspects that the copy of the work being publicly performed or displayed has been obtained illegally.
The TEACH Act, a 2002 amendment to the Copyright Act and addresses distance education specifically. Under this act, instructors are able, for the most part, to distribute materials online just as they would in a face-to-face setting. The course must be restricted to only those individuals enrolled in the course and only accessible through an authenticated method. A Web page created by the instructor or the institution does not constitute a fair use dissemination of materials. Web pages are accessible to anyone on the Internet and therefore require permission from the copyright holder to place materials other than those created by the institution or the instructor on the site.
According to the Questions & Answers on Copyright for the Campus Community (7th edition), the following types of materials may be distributed online within the above guidelines:
Those items excluded from online distribution are:
Instructors, in accordance with the TEACH Act, must be sure that under the auspices of the act the following conditions are met:
This material is protected by Title 17 U.S. Copyright and is for use only by those students registered for this course.
Nicolet College will, in accordance with the TEACH Act
Nicolet College also:
What about the material that I want to put on reserve in the library? Are there any copyright restrictions that might apply there?
Any material that is purchased by the library may be placed on reserve—e.g., a textbook, a supplementary reading text, a film. A single copy of an article or a chapter in a book may be placed on reserve as long as that copy or chapter remains on reserve for one semester.
If you plan to use an article or a chapter from a particular book for more than one semester, you must obtain copyright permission or request reprints of the article/s or chapter/s.
What is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and how does that affect me?
In brief, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was enacted to protect intellectual property in the digital environment.
The law prohibits:
Anyone with a concern regarding infringement must provide Nicolet College with sufficient identification of the violation and of the owner's rights, as well as complete information so the college may contact the complaining party.
The Nicolet College agent identified for purposes of the DMCA is:
Vice President of Instruction
Nicolet Area Technical College
P.O. Box 518
5362 College Drive
Rhinelander, WI 54501
For more detailed information on the DMCA, see the The Digital Millennium Copyright Act OF 1998
Madison Area Technical College Copyright Procedures. (2006). Retrieved March 9, 2007 from MATC website http://matcmadison.edu/matc/employee/copyright/documents/ MATCCopyrightProcedures.pdf
Q & A: Questions & answers on copyright for the campus community (7th ed.) (2006) New York: Association of American Publishers, Inc.; Association of American University Presses; Copyright Clearance Center, Inc.; National Association of College Stores, Inc.; Software & Information Industry Association
Russell, C. (2004) Creative copyright: An everyday guide for librarians. Chicago, IL: American Library Association Creative Commons Deeds License.
Stim, R. (n.d.) Copyright ownership and rights. Retrieved May 8, 2007 from Nolo website. http://www.nolo.com/article.cfm/ObjectID/939629B7-4726-4A7B-BB74971534ED9FB8/catID/DAE53B68-7BF5-455A-BC9F3D9C9C1F7513/310/276/ART/