frequently asked questions*

How do you get copyright protection?

A work  is entitled to protection once it is created by the author. A work is created when "it is in a tangible medium of expression" and is "sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced or otherwise communicated for a period of more than transitory duration.” However, in order to enforce a copyright by legal means (i.e. lawsuit), a work must be registered with the United States Copyright Office.

What types of works are protected by copyrighted?

Copyrighted works fit into the following categories: literary works; musical works; dramatic works; pantomimes and choreographic works; pictorial, graphic and other audiovisual works; sound recordings; and architectural works. The following cannot be copyrighted: an idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, operation, concept, principle or discovery.

How long does copyright protection last?

The duration of copyright protection depends on a few factors, including but not limited to, the date of the work’s creation and publication. Works published before 1923 are in the public domain and may be freely used. For works by individual authors created on or after January 1, 1978, copyright protection exists for the life of the author plus seventy (70) years. To determine copyright term for works created with different time frames or variations of authorship, please see the table published by Peter Hirtle from Cornell.

What are the exceptions under copyright law?

There are a few instances where a user does not have to be concerned with copyright infringement. Two recognized limitations on copyrights are works in the “public domain” and “fair use.”  For more information on these topics, please see the Public Domain and Fair Use sections. 

What are licenses (permissions)?

Licenses are permissions granted by the copyright owner to a user to use the work in a particular manner. For information on licenses that have been granted or may need to be granted within the FIU Community, please contact us. Please note, however, that it is generally the responsibility of the user to research, find, and contact the owner of the copyright to request the license/permission.

One option available to owners is a Creative Commons (CC) license. Creative Commons provides free, legal tools enabling a copyright owner to share copyrighted work so that it may be used by the public in a specified manner.

How does copyright law apply in instances where Users are using works or materials that may be on loan to or hosted by FIU?

Institutions’ copyright policies governing third party resources would apply.

What is the proper method for citing a work?

    A proper citation should always include the name of the author, title of the work and date of publication where applicable. For example, electronic materials should be cited as follows:

    • Title/Name of the resource
    • URL of the resource (listed in the citation as the permanent link), or the URL of the collection where the resource can be found
    • Name of the holding institution

    This site is solely intended to educate the Florida International University Community on the basics of Copyright law. The information contained, herein, is not intended as legal advice and an attorney should be consulted for such matters.

    *Please note that the information herein is limited to copyright law in the United States. Foreign works may be subject to separate analysis based on the law of the country where the work was created. For additional assistance, contact FIU Office of the General Counsel (OGC).