Copyright and related topics glossary

author - "he to whom anything owes its origin; originator; maker "  Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony (1884)

Berne Convention - Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, signed at Berne, Switzerland, on September 9, 1886, subscribed to by over 77 nations, including all major trading countries, with the notable exception of Russia.

compilation - a work, such as a book, file, document, or list, composed of materials gathering from other sources (books, files, documents, or lists). Since, by definition, a compilation is prepared from pre-existing materials, all that copyright will protect in a compilation is the selection and/or arrangement of the the materials, provided that the selection and arrangement is sufficiently original.

copyright - exclusive intellectual property right granted to "authors" under the U.S. Copyright Act.  It provides exclusive rights for their works of authorship, including the rights to reproduce (copy), create derivative works, distribute, publicly perform, and publicly display.  Works covered by copyright include: literary, dramatic, choreographic and musical works; databases; photographs and other graphic images; and motion pictures, sound recordings, and other audiovisual works.

derivative work - is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgement, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a "derivative work".

fact - knowledge or information based on real occurrences; a thing that has been done; something shown to exist; something known to have existed; a real occurrence; something believed to be true; an event

fair use - a concept of copyright law in which a limited copying of copyrighted material is permissible under some circumstances such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.  Factors to be used in determining if usage is fair use include: the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; the nature of the work; the amount work used; and the market value impact on the copyrighted work.

fixed - in a form that has some permanency.  A pen writing on paper fixes the ink to the paper.  A keyboard writing to computer memory fixes nothing, as the computer memory is not permanent. Unless the information is saved, it is lost when the computer is shutdown or the program is closed.  If a comic is adlibbing to his audience, there is nothing fixed in permanent form from his performance.  When the same comic performs to an audience on HBO, that performance is fixed on the recording medium used to tape the show.

intellectual property - As defined by Article 2, section (viii), of the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization, done at Stockholm, July 14, 1967, "intellectual property" shall include the rights relating to: literary, artistic and scientific works, performances of performing artists, phonograms, and broadcasts, inventions in all fields of human endeavor, scientific discoveries, industrial designs, trademarks, service marks, and commercial names and designations, protection against unfair competition, and all other rights resulting from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary or artistic fields.

infringement - violation of the exclusive rights granted by the copyright law.

licensing - contractual agreements granting permission for the use of intellectual property under specific conditions.  Some online licenses impose limits beyond what is covered under copyright law.

litigation - civil action in which a legal controversy is taken before a court.

Litigation is a machine which you go into as a pig and come out as a sausage.  -- Ambrose Bierce

notice - once required by law, a proper copyright notice had to include the copyright symbol (), the date, and the name of the copyright owner. Works that did not bear a proper copyright notice entered the public domain upon publication. A copyright notice is no longer required and the lack of a notice, except in older works where it was required, is no longer a good indicator that the work is in the public domain.


plagiarism - Using the ideas or words of others without acknowledging the source. This is true even if the ideas of someone else are paraphrased or summarized. In scholarly research, plagiarism is considered unethical and dishonest.

public domain - a term referring to the status of a work that has no copyright protection. It literally means that the work belongs to everyone and is available for unrestricted access to anyone who wants to use it.  Neither permission nor source citation is required for its use, though failure to cite the source could be considered as plagiarism.

perform - To "perform" a work means to recite, render, play, dance, or act it, either directly or by means of any device or process or, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to show its images in any sequence or to make the sounds accompanying it audible.

publication - distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display, constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication.

science and the useful arts - the Constitution mandate on copyright was intended to encourage the dissemination (progress) of knowledge (Science) and technology (useful Arts) to the public.

tangible form - able to be perceived either directly or by the aid of a device.

trademark - a name, image, word, phrase, symbol, device or any combination of these that is used to identify a company, its goods and services from those of other companies.  To be recognized as a trademark in the U. S., it must be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

work - in copyright law, a universal phrase used for any product of expression that might be protected under copyright, including: a book, a poem, a composition, a movie, a video, an audio recording, a letter, a map, an architectural drawing, a compilation, a computer file, a computer program, an email message, a photograph, a painting, a statue, and many others, fixed in forms now known or yet to be developed.

writings - In The Trade-Mark Cases (1879), the Court determined that for a work to be classified "under the head of writings of authors, originality is required" and that "the writings which are to be protected are the fruits of intellectual labor, embodied in the form of books, prints, engravings, and the like." 

Hit Counter visits since 7/21/2003                     
page last revised 10/12/2009