Skip to main content

Using Copyrighted Works

Find resources and recommendations on making legal and ethical use of copyrighted scholarly work.

Copyright Owner's Rights

The copyright owner of a work has the right to do or authorize any of the following (Sec. 106):

(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords; 
(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work; [examples of derivative works include (but are not limited to), translations, musical settings, dramatizations, and motion picture versions. "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”.  (Sec. 101)]

(3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;

(4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;

(5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and

(6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission. 

It is important to note that the law refers to the copyright owner rather than the author.  While authors own the copyright to a work at its inception, in most publication contracts the author surrenders her/his copyright ownership to the publisher.  This list of exclusive rights is often described as a "bundle" in that the exclusive rights may be transferred, leased, or licensed separately to one or more persons or corporate entities on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis.