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The Graduate Health & Life Sciences Research Library at Georgetown University Medical Center

Copyright Protection - Managing Creator Rights

What does copyright protect?

Copyright protects many works of authorship including songs, sheet music, literary works, works of fine arts, digital images, print photographs, websites, software, and much more.

Copyright does not protect trademark, ideas, news, facts, processes, procedures, concepts, principles, or discovery.

Automatic Copyright Protection

There are 3 criteria used to determine if a work is protected: whether it is fixed, original, and creative

  • Fixed
    • Work needs to be saved to a computer
    • Work needs to be written or drawn
    • Work needs to be recorded
    • Work is no longer temporal
  • Original
    • Work needs to be self-created
    • Novelty isn't necessary
  • Creative
    • Work needs to have minimal creativity
    • Perfection isn't necessary

If the work satisfies all three criteria, then the copyright of the work is automatically protected.

Additional recommendations for creators

Prior to 1978, an author needed to register with the US copyright office or have a copyright symbol included on the work in order for the work to be copyright protected.

At this time, registration with the copyright office, depositing a copy of the work with the Library of Congress, and including a copyright symbol are only recommended. However, if a creator wishes to sue for infringement or collect damages, one needs to register work with the Copyright Office first. 

Other recommendations include:

  • Including the creator's name next to the symbol
  • Including the current year or years that pertain to the copyright
  • Including the phrase “All Rights Reserved”
  • Depending on whether the work goes on the Internet, it may be worth including contact information

If a professor creating course information, recommendations include: 

  • Name
  • University (Georgetown University)
  • Ensure notes/lectures are formatted as PDFs
  • Deposit in a Learning Management System (LMS) such as Canvas or Blackboard

U.S. Copyright Duration information

In the United States, an individual's created work is protected for a duration of life-plus-seventy. This means that a work will fall into the public domain on January 1st, seventy-one years after the author's death. 

Joint works, those created by two or more authors is also protected for a duration of life-plus-seventy. However, the work will fall into the public domain on January 1st, seventy-one years after the last surviving author's death.

Works-made-for-hire, anonymous works, and pseudonymous works are protected for either 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever expires first. 


The purpose of this guide is to provide resources and information for resolving copyright questions. This research guide does not supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.

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Katherine Greene
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Associate Director for Resources & Copyright Support

Dahlgren Memorial Library
3900 Reservoir Rd, NW
Washington, DC 20057