The sources used in compiling this Glossary are listed at the end of this page. The number appearing after each definition corresponds to the source used for that term or concept.



Accredited: Approved by a regional or national accrediting agency. Non-profit educational institutions that qualify for TEACH Act exemptions must be accredited. K-12 schools are recognized as accredited by applicable state certification or licensing boards. Accredited higher educational institutions are approved by a regional or national accrediting agency recognized by the Council on Higher Education and Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education. (1)

American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP): A performing rights society that licenses rights to perform non-dramatic musical works. (1)

Artistic Work: Visual representation such as a painting, drawing, map, photograph, sculpture, engraving or architectural plan. (2)

Assignment: The transfer of copyright from the original owner to another party. (2)

Author: The creator of an artistic, literary, musical or dramatic work. (2)

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Berne Convention Country: A country that is party to the Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works concluded at Berne on September 9, 1886, or any one of its revisions, including the Paris Act of 1971. (2)

Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988: A U.S. Law (P.L.100-568) that amended the copyright law to implement international copyright treaties agreed upon at the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. (1)

Broadcast Music International (BMI): A performing rights society that licenses rights to perform non-dramatic musical works. (1)

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CANCOPY: A reprography collective that grants licenses to photocopy works and collects fees on behalf of its members. (2)

Catalog of Copyright Entries (CCE): A resource maintained by the U.S. Copyright Office listing all works registered for copyright protection for the years 1891-1982. Works registered after 1978 can be found in an online searchable database available via the U.S. Copyright Office Web site ( (1)

Circumvention: The act of bypassing a technological device or system (passwords, encryption, watermarking) to gain access to or copy a work. (1)

Click-On or Click-Wrap License: A non-negotiated license that appears on a computer screen when accessing sources on the Web, such as an online newspaper. Acceptance of the license terms occurs when a user clicks on a consent or “accept terms” box to gain access to the digital resource. (1)

Collected Work: A compilation of several individual works that may each be protected by copyright. (1)

Collective: Organization that administers rights granted by the copyright system on behalf of copyright owners who have joined that collective. (2)

Common Law: Law derived from judicial decisions. (1)

Compilation: A work made up of preexisting data or materials selected and arranged in a creative and novel way so that the resulting work qualifies for copyright protection. (1)

Compulsory License: A license created by Congress that allows certain parties the right to use copyrighted works without prior permission of the copyright holder in exchange for a specific royalty fee. (1)

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986: A U.S. law prohibiting fraud and related activity in connection with computers. (1)

Conference on Fair Use (CONFU): Meetings of copyright holders’ and users’ groups to discuss fair use issues, and if appropriate fair use guidelines, convened by the Information Infrastructure Task Force, Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights from 1994 to 1998. (1)

Contributory Infringement: The act of contributing to or aiding the infringing acts of another person. (1)

Copyright: A set of exclusive rights awarded to a copyright holder for an original and creative work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright is a limited statutory monopoly that gives a copyright holder the sole right to market a work for a limited period of time. Copyright also includes exemptions that permit a user of the copyright-protected work the right to exercise an exclusive right without authorization or royalty payment under certain conditions. (1)

Copyright Clearance Center (CCC): A copyright royalty clearinghouse that collects permission fees for the use of copyrighted works (primarily journal articles) on behalf of publishers and other copyright holders. CCC also offers blanket license agreements to for-profit and non-profit institutions for the use of copyrighted works. (1)

Copyright Infringement: Violation of copyright through unauthorized copying or use of a work or other subject-matter under copyright. (2)

Copyright management information (CMI): Identifying information conveyed in connection with a work, such as title, author, copyright holder, terms of use, identifying numbers like an ISBN, and other information that the Register of Copyright may require by included. (2)

Copyright Notice: Use of copyright notice informs the public that the item is protected by copyright, the name of the copyright owner, and the first year of publication. The use of the “C in a circle” is the most widely accepted means of copyright notice. Copyright notice is no longer required under the U.S. law, but it is still beneficial.

Copyright Registration: Copyright registration is a legal formality intended to make a public record of the basic facts of a particular copyright. However, registration is not a condition of copyright protection. Even though registration is not a requirement for protection, the copyright law provides several advantages for copyright owners who register their work(s).

Copyright Warning: The notice within a publication that the item is protected by copyright. See also Copyright notice.

Creative Commons: A non-profit organization that promotes the creative reuse of intellectual works, whether owned or in the public domain, through the use of licenses that define the rights copyright holders choose to retain and those uses that may be made of copyrighted works without the prior permission of the copyright holder. (1)

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Deep Linking: Hyperlinking to a specific address within a Web site, bypassing the Web site home page. (1)

Derivative Work: A copyrightable work based on an existing work, such as a translation or dramatization of a work. The right to create derivative works in an exclusive right of the copyright holder. (1)

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998: An amendment to the copyright law that sought to address new copyright concerns in the digital environment. (1)

Digital rights management (DRM): “A system of information technology components and services, along with corresponding law, policies and business models, which strive to distribute and control intellectual property and its rights. Product authenticity, user charges, terms-of-use and expiration of rights are typical concerns of DRM” (National Institute of Standards and Technology). (1)

Display: To show a copy of a work, either directly or by means of a film, slide, television image, or any other device or process, or in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to show individual images nonsequentially. (3)

Display Rights: The copyright holder is allowed to determine when and where the work, or a copy of it, can be shown to others. Also known as “public display rights.”

Distribution: In relation to copyright law, the exclusive right of the copyright holder to sell, trade, lease, lend, or otherwise transfer material from one entity to another. (3)

Downloading: The transmission/copying of a file from one computer system to another, usually from a larger to a smaller computer system.

Dramatic Literary Works: Copyrighted works that involve a dramatic presentation, such as an opera or play. (1)

Dramatic Work: Includes plays, screenplays, scripts, films, videos and choreographic works and translations of such works. (2)

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Exception (to Copyright): A provision in a copyright law permitting the use of a work by defined user groups without the consent of its creator and without the payment of royalties which use would otherwise be an infringement of copyright. Examples of user groups benefiting from exceptions are educational institutions, libraries, museums, archives and persons with a perceptual disability. (2)

Exclusive Rights: The rights of the copyright holder to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform, and display a work and to create derivative works based on the original. (1)

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Fair Use: Fair use limits the exclusive rights of copyright owners and gives the user rights to reproduce in copies or phonorecords for "purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research." This is NOT an infringement. However, four factors must always be considered in determining fair use: "the purpose and character of use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work." (3)

First Sale Doctrine: A concept defined in section 109 if the copyright law that allows an exemption to the exclusive right of distribution. When one lawfully acquires a copy of a protected work, she can dispose of, sell, or lend that copy to another. (1)

Fixed in Tangible Medium: The perceptible, physical form of creative expression, such as words in a book or music on a compact disc. Also one of the requirements for copyright protection. (1)

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GNU General Public License: A license developed by the Free Software Foundation that allows and encourages the sharing and modification of free software as long as the same license is retained with any new version of the software that may be created. (1)

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Harry Fox Agency: A copyright clearinghouse and licensing agency for the music industry. (1)

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Industrial Designs: The visual features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament (or any combination of these features), applied to a finished article of manufacture. (2)

Infringement: The act of violating one or more of a copyright holder’s exclusive rights. (1)

Innocent Infringement: A violation of copyright without knowing that one has done so. (1)

Intellectual Property: A form of creative endeavor that can be protected through a copyright, trade-mark, patent, industrial design or integrated circuit topography. (2)

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Liability: Responsibility for an illegal offense, enforceable by civil remedy or criminal punishment. (1)

License: Legal agreement granting someone permission to use a work for certain purposes or under certain conditions. A license does not constitute a change in ownership of the copyright. (2)

Linking: Providing a link from on Web site to another Web site. (1)

Literary Work: Work consisting of text which includes novels, poems, song lyrics without music, catalogues, reports, tables and translations of such works. It also includes computer programs. (2)

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Marking: Indicating copyright with the symbol "©" the name of the copyright owner and the year of first publication. (2)

Mediated Instructional Activities: Teaching activities that can be exempt from copyright under the TEACH Act, if they are integral to the course, under the direction of the course instructor, and analogous to the kinds of performances or displays one would expect in a physical classroom. (1)

Misappropriation: Using someone else’s property or money dishonestly for one’s own gain. (1)

Moral Rights: Rights an author retains over the integrity of a work and the right to be named as its author even after sale or transfer of the copyright. (2)

Musical Work: Work which consists of music plus lyrics or music only. (2)

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National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyright Works (CONTU): A group created by Congress in 1979 to address the use of new technologies (computers and photocopiers). CONTU recommended that original and creative computer programs be afforded copyright protection and that new original works created through the use of computers be afforded copyright protection, and created guidelines addressing interlibrary loan and photocopying (CONTU guidelines). (1)

Non-Dramatic Literary Works: Literary works without a dramatic presentation, such as poetry, novels, and factual works. (1)

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Online Service Providers (OSPs): Service providers that offer transmission and routing or provide connections for digital online communications but do not create or modify the content of material sent or received (per the DMCA). (1)

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Patent: Cover new inventions (process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter), or any new and useful improvement of an existing invention. (2)

Patent Law: A form of intellectual property law that protects novel, useful, and non-obvious inventions or processes. (1)

Peer-to-Peer File Sharing (P2P): Using specific software programs to transfer files from one computer to another. (1)

Perform: To recite, render, play, dance, or act it, either directly or by means of any device or process or, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to show its images in any sequence or to make the sounds accompanying it audible.

Performers and Producers Rights: A term used to indicate rights of performers and sound recording producers to be remunerated when their performances and sound recordings are performed publicly or broadcast, also referred to as "neighboring rights." (2)

Performing Rights Society: Performing rights societies “collectively” license the right to publicly perform the broad range of non-dramatic musical works encompassed in each agency’s portfolio, some of which are searchable on their respective Web sites. (1)

Permission: Authorization or copyright clearance, provided by the publisher, author, or creator, of a copyright work, for its’ for reproduction or reuse.

Phonorecord: A tangible object from which sounds are fixed and can be heard, communicated, or distributed either directly or through the use of a machine. (1)

Plagiarism: Using the work (or part of it) of another person and claiming it as your own. (2)

Posthumous Work: A work which is published for the first time (or for certain types of works, published or performed or delivered in public for the first time) after the author's death. (2)

Private Copying: Copying of pre-recorded musical works, performer's performances and sound recordings onto a blank medium, such as audio tape or cassette, for personal use. (2)

Public Display: A display of a work before a group larger that a family or a small group of friends or at a place open to the public. (1)

Public Domain: The realm of works not protected by copyright. (1)

Public Performance: Performance before a group larger that a family or small group of friends or in a place open to the public. (1)

Publication: Making copies of a work available to the public. The construction of an architectural work and the incorporation of an artistic work into an architectural work are considered publication. (2)

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Registration: The formal record of a copyright by the Copyright Office. (2)

Reproduction: In relation to copyright, reproduction can take two forms: 1) the making of copies, by the use of any method of duplicating a visually perceptible material or 2) the making of phonorecords, by duplicating sound recordings, taping of the air, or any other method of recapturing sounds.

Reverse Engineering: The scientific method of taking something apart to figure out how it works. (1)

Right of Attribution: A moral right that ensures that a creator is correctly identified with the work she creates and not identified with works she did not create. (1)

Right of Integrity: A moral right that protects works from modification, destruction, distortion and mutilation. (1)

Rome Convention Country: A country that is party to the International Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations done at Rome on October 26, 1961. (2)

Royalty: A sum paid to copyright owners for the sale or use of their works or other subject-matter. (2)

Rule Making: A process initiated by a government agency to create or amend a rule or regulation. (1)

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Shrink-Wrap License: A non-negotiated license enclosed in the packaging of some software and other products. Acceptance of the license terms occurs when a customer opens the shrink-wrap packaging. (1)

Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC): A performing rights society that licenses rights to perform non-dramatic musical works. (1)

Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998: An amendment to the copyright law that extended the term of copyright protection by twenty years. (1)

Sound Recording: A device which reproduces sounds, such as a cassette, record or CD player. (2)

State Sovereign Immunity: State governments’ immunity from being sued in federal courts. (1)

Statute of Anne: The English copyright act of 1709, which gave authors copyright protection for their works. (1)

Sweat of the Brow: A legal doctrine, challenged in the Feist decision, which held that the time and effort one commits to collecting data or compiling a work (such as telephone listings) does not qualify that work for copyright protection. (1)

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Tariff: A standard charge for use of copyrighted works. Usually applies to fees paid by users of musical works and cable companies for the rebroadcast of programs. (2)

Technological Protection Measures: Digital technologies or software used to control access to or copying of copyrighted works, such as password protection and watermarking. (1)

Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act of 2002: An amendment to the copyright law that updated sections 110 and 112 to allow for the public performance and display of copyrighted work in digital forms and to be transferred through digital networks for teaching purposes at accredited non-profit, education institutions. (1)

Time Shifting: Copying a television program or other copyrighted work to view or use at a later time. (1)

Trade Secret: A form of intellectual property that protects company “know-how,” like the secret recipe for Pepsi. (1)

Trademarks: Words, symbols, designs (or a combination of these), used to distinguish the goods and services of one person or organization from those of others in the marketplace. (2)

Trespass to Chattels: Physically interfering with the property of another. (1)

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Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA): A proposed state-level law that would make non-negotiated shrink-wrap or click-on licenses legally binding. (1)

Universal Copyright Convention Country: A country that is party to the Universal Copyright Convention, adopted on September 6, 1952, in Geneva, Switzerland, or to that Convention as revised in Paris, France, on July 24, 1971. (2)

Unpublished: Those works not distributed to the public through sale, rental , lease, or transfer of ownership are considered unpublished. Public display or performance of a work without the offer to distribute copies does not constitute publication.

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Vicarious Infringement: A person’s liability for the infringing acts of another even though the person did not infringe them herself. (1)

Visual Artist Rights Act (VARA) of 1990: An amendment to the copyright law that provides artists who create a narrow class of artistic works the moral rights of integrity and attribution. (1)

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Work for Hire: A copyrightable work created by an employee or a contractor hired to do so. (1)

WTO Member Country: A country that is a Member of the World Trade Organization as defined in subsection 2(1) of the World Trade Organization Agreement Implementation Act. (2)

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Glossary Sources
The 3 sources listed below were used in compiling the Glossary. The number appearing after the definition corresponds to the source used for that term or concept. Additional resources listing and describing detailed materials on copyright are provided on the Information for Students and Information for Faculty & Staff pages.

1: Russell, Carrie. Complete Copyright: And Everyday Guide for Librarians. Chicago: American Library Association, 2004.
2: Canadian Intellectual Property Office. “A Guide to Copyright: Glossary.” Canadian Intellectual Property Office.
3: United States Copyright Office website.

Remember that copyright is an area where there is still much ambiguity. Future legislation and court decisions will continue to shape copyright law. Information provided on this website should not be construed as legal advice.