Copyright is a property right that grants creators a set of exclusive rights to their works. A copyright owner is the only person that can:
Copyright protects "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression." This means that in order to be copyrightable, a work must have:
Copyright does not protect ideas or facts but does protect how they are expressed. You can hold copyright in an article describing your ideas or facts you have discovered, but you cannot assert copyright in the underlying facts or concepts.
Categories of works that are generally protected by copyright include: artwork, photography, film, musical compositions, sound recordings, architectural works, choreography, computer code, and texts of all kinds (e.g., fiction, non-fiction, scientific articles, syllabi and lecture notes, etc.).
Copyright protection is not indefinite - exclusive rights are granted to creators for only a limited period of time. The duration of copyright protection depends on a variety of factors, including who created the work and whether it was published. However, in general, copyright protection will exist during the creator's lifetime and then for an additional 70 years.
When copyright protection expires, works enter what is known as the public domain. Works within the public domain can be freely used without the copyright owner's permission. In 2023, works published in the United States prior to 1928 are within the public domain, as are works created by authors who died prior to 1953.