Copyright 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.