This guide presents an overview of copyright law with an emphasis on the ways it might pertain to the work of Gettysburg College students, staff, and faculty.
Members of Musselman Library's Copyright Committee prepared this guide based on their collective interpretation of and experience with copyright, fair use, and other intellectual property issues; however, they are not lawyers.
The information contained here is not legal advice, and consulting this guide is not a substitute for speaking with legal counsel.
A gives the inventor(s) of a utilitarian device (e.g. a tool) or process (e.g. a chemical formula) the exclusive right to duplicate that invention's design. Anyone seeking a patent must submit their design and detail what makes it unique.
A is a word, phrase, or symbol (e.g. a logo) identifying a product, service, person, or company. Registering a trademark prevents others from using the mark without permission or from creating a similar mark meant to confuse the public.
Copyright provides the creators of original works of authorship with a set of exclusive rights to copy, distribute, and perform their works for a limited period of time. The U.S. copyright law attempts to balance the private interests of copyright owners with the public interest in the spread of information
Though having undergone major revisions, notably in 1909 and 1976, the U.S. copyright law endures today and continues to apply to works fixed in any tangible medium of expression. Many of the law's provisions are limited in certain circumstances and the educational environment is one of the most confusing areas where copyright can be applied.
Section 102 of the copyright law affords protection to "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device."
A work created today would remain protected by copyright law until 70 years after the death of the author or creator. If the work has a corporate author then the protection would last until 95 years after publication or 120 years after creation, whichever is shorter.
When copyright protections expire, the work becomes part of the public domain and is free to use by anyone. You can learn more about the public domain by using the tab above.