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Copyright for Research: Home


Copyright is a form of intellectual property (IP), which along with trademarks and patents, is protected by law (Title 17 of the US Code). This protection is grounded in the US Constitution, and grants protection for original works of authorship that is created in a tangible form of expression.  Copyright covers both published and unpublished works, as well as digital creations, including webpages. These laws protect the creator's right to control how the material is:

  • Reproduced
  • Distributed
  • Adapted
  • Performed or displayed

Works created since 1989 are not required to include a copyright statement; we must assume that any publication, image, musical program, etc. is protected by copyright laws unless stated otherwise. Generally speaking, under current US copyright laws, copyright statements on works created after 1923 are still in effect.

For more information, see links under the Resources tab.

Copyright and the Internet

Most people understand that published books and reports are subject to copyright - but what about things on the Internet? It's tempting to assume that if you can access and copy content, that you can legitimately use it. However, copyright laws also apply to material on the Internet.

  • We need to respect posted copyright statements (but remember that a lack of statement doesn't mean the lack of copyright).
  • It's illegal to download or transfer unauthorized copies of copyrighted music or videos.
  • It's illegal to circumvent technology put in place to control access and reproduction of digital material.

This Guide

This guide was created by:

Laura Wilt
Oregon Dept. of Transportation Library

This is intended as an informational guide; it is not intended to express legal opinion.

Other Terms and Definitions

There are many terms that are used in connection with conversations on copyright and usage; it can be difficult to know that differences, and how they relate to one another.  A few examples:

Open Access: This term generally refers to journals offering unrestricted access to their content. Such content is available free of charge and without an embargo period (some subscription journals offer non-subscription access to articles, but only after a period of 12-18 months). This does not mean that the publications are in the Public Domain; rather, they have used their rights as copyright owners to give permission for use and re-use of material. Such journals often make use of a Creative Commons license.

Open source: This term refers to software for which the original source code is made available free of charge.  Open source software can be shared and modified to meet the needs of the user; however, the creator of the source code can hold a copyright on it.