The University of Illinois Office of University Counsel

University of Illinois System


CopyrightsCopyright law protects original works of authorship that are fixed in tangible form.  Copyrightable works include literary works (such as books, poems, plays, and scholarly articles), computer software (including both object and source code), musical works (including both sheet music and recorded music), graphic and sculptural works (such as paintings, graphic designs, sculptures), and motion pictures and other audio-visual works.  Copyright law does not protect ideas themselves, factual information, mere listings of facts independent of original arrangement (e.g., the phonebook), titles or short phrases, type styles, information in the public domain, or slogans. 

Unless certain exceptions apply, copyright protection vests in the creator or author of the work.  Copyright protection exists from the moment that the work is fixed in tangible form, whether or not the work was published, registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, or included a copyright notice.  Copyright protection lasts for a specified term, the length of which depends upon when the work was created, published, and/or registered.  Copyright law provides the owner of the work a bundle of exclusive rights, including the right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, and create derivative works (or modifications of) the original copyrighted work.  The copyright owner can license or transfer some or all of those rights on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis.  Unauthorized use of a copyrighted work can lead to criminal or civil liability, unless the use falls within certain exceptions to the permission requirement, such as the “fair use” exception, which is the most commonly cited exception in the context of teaching, research and scholarship.

Pursuant to Article III, Section 4 of “The General Rules Concerning University Organization and Procedure,” (“General Rules”) as of February 2013, University authors generally own the copyrights for traditional academic copyrightable works (such as, class notes, books, theses and dissertations, educational software designed for courses, articles, works of fiction, dramatic works, and music), provided that such works are not created pursuant to an agreement between the University and a third party; created as a specific requirement of employment or as an assigned University duty; specifically commissioned by the University; or are also patentable.   In addition, if traditional academic copyrightable works are created with the use of University resources over and above resources that are usually and customarily provided, the University has certain license rights to such works.  Please see Article III, Sections 2 and 4 of the General Rules for the specific policy requirements.

Although the copyright in a work does not need to be formally registered with the Library of Congress, there are certain advantages to registration.  Registration establishes a public record of a copyright claim, is required prior to filing a copyright infringement suit, may entitle a copyright holder to collect statutory damages in an infringement suit (which may far exceed actual damages), and allows the owner to protect against the importation of infringing copies.  For the registration process for University-owned works, please see Article III, Section 4(d) of the General Rules.

All copyrightable works, whether registered or not, should bear a copyright notice to inform others that the owner is claiming copyright.  For University-owned works, the following copyright notice should be used: “© [Year of work’s creation], The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.  All Rights Reserved.”

For more information regarding copyright in the context of teaching, research and scholarship, please see, and

For additional information regarding fair use and other exceptions, please see

For additional information regarding the proper use of copyrighted materials, please see for the Urbana Campus, for UIC, and for UIS.

For questions regarding compliance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act, please refer to for the Urbana Campus,  for UIC, and for UIS. 

For more information about copyright in general, please see the U.S. Copyright Office website at