Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17 U.S. Code) protects original works, published or not published, that are “fixed in a tangible medium of expression” and can be touched, seen, heard, or read. Works are protected from the moment they are in a fixed format regardless of whether they contain a copyright notice or copyright has been registered.
The copyright owner of a work has the exclusive right to do or authorize any of the following (Title 17 U.S. Code § 106):
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 their copyright ownership to the publisher.
Resources for Determining Copyright Status
Items NOT Protected by Copyright