Intellectual Property: Copyright


Please note that Austin Public Library cannot give legal advice. If you need legal advice, you should contact an intellectual property attorney.

U.S. Copyright Law

United States copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code § 101) protects the rights and the creators. The owner of copyright has the exclusive right to do and to authorize the following:

  • reproduce the work
  • prepare derivative works based upon the work
  • distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
  • prohibit other persons from using the work without permission
  • perform or display the work publicly

Copyright protection covers both published and unpublished works as well as out-of-print materials. 

Facts, ideas, procedures, processes, systems, concepts, principles, or discoveries cannot be copyrighted, though some can be protected by patent or trade-secret laws. 

Copyright limits, but does not prevent the use of work for teaching and research, and for comment and reportage. 

Copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. If there is more than one author, copyright protection lasts for the life of the last author's death plus 70 years. 

Register a Copyright

A Simple Guide to Copyright

A simple, comprehensive guide to copyright from as a good start to understanding the basics of copyright.

Register A Copyright

Seal of the United States Copyright Office 1870 logo etched on a glass window in front of an office

The U.S. Copyright Office allows you to Register Your Works or learn more about the registration process.

How do I know if it's Fair Use?

Fair Use Guide

by Oregon State University

This guide is provided by the Oregon State University and provides an overview of your rights as a copyright owner and the use of other people's work in academic contexts.

Large copyright graffiti sign on cream colored wall

Image by Horia Varlan

How to Get Permission

Determine whether the material you'd like to use is covered by U.S. Copyright Laws, you may Consult the Copyright Genie or enter the details of your copyright situation in The Fair Use Evaluator

If the answer is yes, the material you'd like to use is covered by US copyright laws:

Search a Copyright

  • The records of the Copyright Office are open for searching by the public. Records from 1978 forward can be searched on the copyright office web site. Please note: The Copyright Office charges a fee to search for you. 
  • The Stanford Copyright Renewal Database makes searchable the copyright renewal records for books published in the US between 1923 and 1963.
  • WATCH is one of the largest databases of copyright holders in the world. 

Copyright Crash Course

Free Online Copyright Crash Course

The Copyright Crash Course (CCC) was originally created with UT Faculty in mind, but can be used by anyone interested in understanding more about copyright as well as managing their copyrights. The Copyright Crash Course is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Copyright & You