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Basic information about copyright including fair use.

Using this Guide

This library guide seeks to anticipate the most frequently asked copyright questions; however, the information presented on this guide is intended only for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice. Please direct any copyright-related questions not addressed in this guide to the Highline College Librarians, who will help connect you with resources related to your topic.

Wherever possible, this guide links to useful copyright resources so you may be redirected to other institution's resources.

To locate alternatives to copyright-protected content, see the Faculty Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER) or ask a librarian.

Copyright Basics

Video length: 2 min, 42 sec

Source: "Understanding Copyright, Public Domain, and Fair Use" by, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.

About Copyright

Full copyright in a work exists from the moment you hit save, put pen to paper, or paintbrush to canvas. In other words, as soon as what you create is “fixed in a tangible form of expression.” However, you can also officially register your work with the copyright office (starting around $45), and/or simply add a copyright notice to your work (either an open Creative Commons license or a statement like “All rights reserved, [author’s name], [date].)" This guide will provide more information on this topic, as well as fair use, alternatives to copyrighted materials, and much more.


"Creative Commons" by University of Texas Libraries is licensed under CC BY 2.0

United States Copyright Office. Copyright Basics.,  2021.

Bundle of Rights


For the purposes of copyright law, an Author is anyone who creates original expression in a fixed medium, like a book, journal article, computer software, a photograph, artwork or many other creative works. The creator of the expression is the Author and holds the copyright from the moment of creation. As the Author of a work you are the copyright holder unless and until you transfer the copyright to someone else in a signed agreement.

An Author's Bundle of Exclusive Rights

Copyright is a bundle of exclusive rights of the creator or copyright holder to:

  • Reproduce: The right to make copies of a protected work (e.g. as photocopies or online).
  • Distribute: The right to sell or distribute copies of the work to the public.
  • Prepare Derivative Works or Adaptations: The right to create adaptations (called derivative works, e.g. translations); the right to prepare new works based on the protected work.
  • Display or Perform the Work Publicly: The right to perform a protected work (such as a stage play) or to display a work in public.
  • Authorize Others to Exercise Any of These Rights: This right of a copyright owner to be flexible when deciding how to realize commercial gain from the underlying work; the owner may sell or license any of the rights.

Authors are typically asked to sign legally binding contracts such as a publication agreement or a copyright transfer agreement (both legally binding contracts) usually transferring ownership of copyright to the publisher who then determines how you may use your own work. (By transferring your rights to a publisher, you will lose some or all of the above rights.) See Copyrighting Your Own Work for options to signing away exclusive rights to your work.

Source: "Author's Rights and Copyright" by Illinois University Library is licensed under CC BY 4.0 / A derivative from: original work 1, original work 2, and original work 3.

Copyright Library Guide Attribution

Creative Commons License

Except where otherwise indicated, original content in this guide is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) 4.0 license.