Skip to Main Content
Scottsdale Community College Scottsdale Community College Library

Copyright Basics: Introduction

Get Help

Ask a Librarian chat Logo

Chat with a real live librarian!


Learn more about copyright

image of copyright symbol

​​​​ Mike Seyfang CC by 2.0

Copyright can be a complicated and confusing concept. Here are some basic things you should know about it. 

What is Copyright? A quick overview from the U.S. Copyright Office. This video is closed captioned and 5 minutes long.

Copyright protects the expression of an idea,

Copyright holders have some exclusive rights:

  • The right to reproduce the work
  • To create derivative works
  • To distribute copies, or transfer ownership
  • To perform the work publicly
  • To display the work publicly
  • To perform the work publicly via digital audio transmission

Copyright Administration Regulations:

The Maricopa Community Colleges District has a policy page on copyright.

Copyright is a type of licensing that provides the creator of "original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression" the right to decide how their work can be used.

  • These original works include everything from literature to photographs to choreographic performances. Even a student's research paper is considered an original work!

Copyright does not cover non-creative or non-tangible items, including ideas, concepts, methods, recipes, or names.

  • This means the content of your next-great-novel can be copyrighted, but not the book's title.  Sorry!

Copyright is automatically granted and no registration is needed. 

  • According to the Copyright Office, an original work is protected "the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form..."  (However, if you ever want to sue someone for copyright infringement, then you would need to register first!) 

What does all of this mean to you?  It's a reminder that just because you find something free on the web doesn't mean it's free to use without permission!  In fact, violation of copyright can result in a variety of consequences ranging from a poor reputation to a lawsuit.

Using content without asking permission

There are some situations that allow you to use content without first asking permission. This page gives a brief overview of Fair Use, Public Performance Rights, Public Domain, Creative Commons, OER and the TEACH Act. 

Copyright myths

Many myths about copyright are floating around out there. Here are a few of those myths, and links to some more information from the library at California State University, Long Beach and the library at Lane Community College, as well as summaries of fair use cases.