Module 2: Copyright, Public Domain & Fair Use

Copyright | Public Domain | Fair Use | Comparison Chart

Learning Outcomes:

  • Differentiate the concepts of all rights reserved copyrights and public domain.
  • Understand the basics of fair use in relation to open education.


Watch: Copyright Basics presented by Stan Muller from Crash Course
Transcript: Copyright Basics

Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship.  Under U.S. copyright law, a creative work, published or unpublished, is protected by copyright from the moment of creation, and those rights are owned by the author(s) of the work.  Copyright protects original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, including poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.  It does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.

Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not required.  Authors sometimes sign contracts to assign rights to another party, such as a publisher. Some institutional policies treat employee works as “works for hire,” meaning the institution, not the individual author, owns the copyright.


This module was created by Ching-Jung Chen. Portions of the content were adapted from: