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A copyright is a form of intellectual protection provided to the authors of “original works of authorship.” The Copyright Act (codified at Title 17 of the United States Code) states that an original work of authorship that is entitled to copyright protection includes literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, regardless of whether they are published and unpublished. Generally speaking, a copyright gives the owner the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work, to perform the copyrighted work publicly, or to display the copyrighted work publicly.  This right for works created on or after January 1, 1978 is for the life of the author and 70 years after the author's death.

Below are some articles addressing various issues in Copyright Law:

From Custom to Law in Copyright*
By: Thomas G. Field
, Jr.

This paper explores two situations where custom may have been misperceived as trumping copyright law. The first part considers why lawyers can copy many practice-related documents without permission and explains why those reasons do not apply to other documents that cannot be so freely copied. The second part considers how schools' customary disinterest in owning copyright in academic employees' works has inappropriately influenced the outcome of unrelated litigation. In both parts, the paper argues that careful attention should be given to reasons for customary behavior before determining its effect on the law.

*The paper is reprinted from its original location in IDEA with permission of both the author and the journal. 

Full citation: Field, Thomas G., From Custom to Law in Copyright (December 23, 2008). IDEA: The Journal of Law and Technology, Vol. 49, No. 1, p. 125, 2008.