What is a Copyright?


Fundamentally, copyright is a law that gives you ownership over the things you create.

Fundamentally, copyright is a law that gives you ownership over the things you create. Be it a painting, a photograph, a poem or a novel, if you created it, you own it and it’s the copyright law itself that assures that ownership. The ownership that copyright law grants comes with several rights that you, as the owner, have exclusively. Those rights include:

The right to reproduce the work
to prepare derivative works
to distribute copies
to perform the work
and to display the work publicly
These are your rights and your rights alone. Unless you willingly give them up (EX: A Creative Commons License), no one can violate them legally. This means that, unless you say otherwise, no one can perform a piece written by you or make copies of it, even with attribution, unless you give the OK.

Inversely, if you’re looking for material to use or reuse, you should not do any of these things without either asking permission or confirming that the work is in the public domain, which means that the copyright has expired and all of the above rights have been forfeited. Simply put, if the work isn’t in the public domain and you don’t have permission to use a piece, you put yourself in risk of legal action, regardless of your intentions.

Because, beyond fair use and parody (issues for later essays), the holder of a copyrighted piece has near carte blanche to do what they want with their work. It’s no different than owning a car, a house or a pen. One can lend it out to a friend, sell it, modify it or even destroy it. In short, if you own the copyright to something, you have the same rights that you do with anything else and, in some instances, even more. After all, you did create it. It only makes sense that you would own the fruits of your labor. That’s what copyright law is all about.

Moral Rights

Though moral rights are not currently recognized in the United States, they’re a major element of European copyright law and


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