University Library


Xavier University makes every effort to comply with the provisions of the Copyright Act, and provides this website to assist the individual members of the Xavier community in understanding and complying with copyright. If you have a specific question that is not answered on this website please complete and submit our Copyright Request Help form.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a federal law that provides protection to creative and intellectual works. The copyright holder, usually the author or creator, has certain exclusive rights to their works. This means other people cannot copy or distribute their works without permission with limited exceptions covered in Fair Use.

What is Copyrighted?

Copyright protects any original work fixed in a tangible medium. All of the examples below are copyrighted.

  • Literary or prose works: books, anthologies, articles, letters, emails, prepared speeches
  • Musical works and accompanying words
  • Dramatic works, plays, and accompanying music and scripts
  • Pantomines, choreographic works, dances
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works: maps, paintings, drawings, photographs (print or digital)
  • Motion pictures: films, videos
  • Audio/sound recordings
  • Architectural works
  • Software and accompanying documentation
  • Web sites

What is NOT Copyrighted?

Things that are not fixed in a tangible medium (written down, recorded, published):

  • Impromptu or extemporaneous speeches, singing
  • Listings of contents, short phrases, slogans
  • Familiar symbols, designs (no smoking or no turn signs)
  • Factual information, such as weights and measures, lists, addresses, dates (telephone book).
  • Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration
  • Information that is common property or contains no original authorship (standard calendars, height and weight charts
  • Works in the public domain (published before 1923; e.g., Jane Austin's Emma)

What Rights do Copyright Owners Have?

  • Reproduce the work
  • Prepare derivative works of the work
  • Distribute copies or recordings of the work
  • Perform the work publicly, including by means of a digital audio or video transmission
  • Display the work publicly

How Long Does Copyright Last?

  • Copyright lasts 70 years after the life of the author
  • If a work is created by a corporation or employer, copyright lasts 95 years past the publication date
  • In the case of an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright lasts for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication, or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first

For more detailed information see this Cornell University webpage.

What Work is the Public Domain?

When a copyright term expires, the work then passes into the public domain. Works in the public domain may be used freely and without restriction. A work enters the public domain under the following circumstances:

  • The term of copyright has expired without renewal.
  • The author intentionally placed the work in the public domain.
  • The work is a product of the U. S. government officials or printed by the Government Printing Office
  • The work was published before 1923.
  • The work was unpublished by an author who died more than 70 years ago.

For more detailed information see this Cornell University webpage.

How Do I Get Copyright?

Copyright protection exists as soon as something is fixed in a tangible medium. You do not have to register your work to get and retain copyright protection. However, if you plan to publish, post, or otherwise distribute your work, registering your work through the US Copyright Office offers some legal benefits.