Copy Right, Copy Sense



Bellsouth vs. Donnelley

Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony

Copyright CodeA Linked Index

Feist Publications vs. Rural Telephone

Peter Veeck versus Southern Building Code Congress International Inc.,

Publications International  v. Meredith Corporation

Trade-Mark Cases, 100 U.S. 82 (1879)

U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8

Information on this site cannot be considered legal advice.  If you need legal advice on copyright, please consult an attorney or refer to one or more of the sponsor links on the right side of the page. Another place you might look is the US Copyright Office web site.

The copyright information on this site applies to U.S. Copyright, unless otherwise stated.

20 Copyright Facts

Here are a few copyright law "facts."

  1. All U.S. works PUBLISHED before 1923 are in the public domain.

  2. Copyright experts estimate that 85% of all U.S. works published between 1923 and 1963 are now in the public domain.

  3. All facts and ideas are in the public domain.

  4. There are no official "copyright cops."  However, there are many self-appointed ones who fuss about sharing of materials.

  5. Material published before 3/1/89 without a valid copyright notice is in the public domain. (There are some exceptions to this, but they are few and far between.)

  6. A compilation of facts is protected by copyright only to the extent that the selection of the material and the arrangement of the material is ORIGINAL. (A compilation of ALL of the headstone inscriptions for a cemetery does not meet the originality requirement for selection of material.)

  7. Copyright protection in a work does not extend to any pre-existing material. 

  8. The amount of time and effort put into a work has no bearing on the copyright status of a work.

  9. Copyright protects those portions of a work that are original, that were created.

  10. Works published in other countries are protected in the United States as though the works were published in the United States.

  11. Copyright protection for a work begins when the work is fixed in some sort of "tangible form." This included writing, typing to paper, and saving it on a computer.

  12. A copyright notice is no longer required for protection.

  13. E-mail is copyrighted as soon as it is sent or saved.

  14. There are many erroneous claims on internet web-pages about what is copyrighted.

  15. There is a lot of copyright infringement on the internet.

  16. There is significantly less infringement on genealogical web sites and mailing lists than some believe primarily because they deal with fact based material and old material where there is no copyright, the copyright has lapsed, or the material was published without a copyright notice.

  17. U.S. government works cannot be copyrighted.

  18. U.S. government works may contain material that is copyrighted by others.

  19. The use of preexisting material in a work does not change the copyright status of the preexisting material. If it was copyrighted, it still is. If it was in the public domain, it still is.

  20. Copyright infringement is almost always a civil rather than a criminal matter.

The above "facts" were written as an exercise to show how "facts" can be incorporated into an original work. In this instance, the bare facts about copyright are clothed in a considerable amount of original expression, which is what is really protected protected by copyright law.

The arrangement of words used to express the "facts" is original text created by me as I typed this article. Even though someone else may sit down to do this same thing and come up with something very similar on this fact based topic, my original expression was protected as soon as I saved it.

The material on this page was originally posted to the Copyright-L mailing list on RootsWeb.  Prior to publishing it on this web page, it was edited somewhat.

(blog posted 12/26/2005)

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Copyright Articles:

What is Copyright?

My Copyright Infringement

How to Deal With Online Media Pirates

Copyright Fundamentals for Genealogy

My Copyright was Infringed!

What is NOT protected by copyright?

Copyright Claims That Just Ain't So


Copyright Concepts:

Authors Labor

Authors Rights

Civil or Criminal?



Copyright Facts

Copyright Notice


Electronic Mail

Fair Use

Fair Use and the DMCA

Foreign Works

From Creation


Inadvertent Infringement


Infringement Remedies

Licenses and Notices

Not Everything Protected






Public Domain

Purpose of Copyright

Really Copyrighted?

U.S. Government Works

What's Protected -

Who Owns the Law? -

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2005, Michael Goad