Copyright Glossary

The following are some of the most difficult terms in the battle to understand copyright.


The originator of a copyrighted work.

Classroom: Section 110 of the Copyright code distinguishes between performance in class and transmission. A "transmission" is limited to classrooms (except in special circumstances due to disability). The Conference on Fair Use (CONFU, 1996) attempted to address this shortcoming, but failed to achieve consensus.


Works formed by the collection and assembling of preexisting works that result in an original work of authorship.

Copyright Notice

A mark showing when an original work was first put into fixed form. Although the Berne Convention does not require a copyright notice on works created after 1989, one should affix copyright information to all original work. This can be done by including three pieces of information:

  • The symbol ©, or the word Copyrighted, or the abbreviation "Copr."
  •  The year of original publication (this includes posting to the Web).
  •  The name of the author.

For example: "© 2002 by John Smith."

Copyrighted Works

Any finished work in a fixed form (published or unpublished) is protected by copyright and therefore considered a copyrighted work.

Derivative Work 

A work based upon one or more preexisting works; such as a translation, dramatization, musical arrangement, etc.


See Performance vs. Display

Dramatic Work

Types of published or unpublished dramatic works that may be submitted for copyright registration include choreography, pantomimes, plays, treatments, and scripts prepared for cinema, radio, and television.

Dramatic vs. Non-Dramatic

Dramatic is defined as a story in which the narrative is not related but is represented by dialogue and action. Therefore, dramatic narrative includes plays and motion pictures. Non-dramatic literary works includes poetry, novels, and textbooks. Non-dramatic musical works covers both song and musical composition.

Educational Purpose

For the purpose of defining Fair Use, an educational purpose may be considered any educational endeavor undertaken in a classroom by a non-profit educational institution. This excludes, obviously, any commercial purpose.

Fair Use

Section 107 of the Copyright code (commonly called Fair Use) limits the rights of the author, allowing parts of a copyrighted work to be used without requesting permission. Such circumstances are limited to criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research. Nevertheless, Fair Use is NOT carte blanche to use any amount of a copyrighted work for any amount of time just because it is "for educational purposes." The government has very strict guidelines on how much may be copied and used in the classroom and for how long. For the most current guidelines associated with copyrighted materials for classroom use, please link to copyright information for faculty on the Washburn University Libraries LibGuide.

Documents created by government and military agencies are public record (unless otherwise stated) and therefore in the public domain.


Illegal use of copyrighted material.

Joint Copyright Ownership

Copyright of an original work by more than one author, in which the contributions of any author is not distinguishable from another. An example of this is the copyright on a scholarly paper written by colleagues.


The process in which an author grants rights to others to use/reproduce an original work (which without permission would create infringement).

Literary Works

Published works of the written word, such as books, magazine and journal articles. In the verbiage of copyright "literary" does not define the quality of the work.

Master Tape

The finished, edited, videotape of a program or project.

Moral Rights

Rights granted to authors under the Berne Convention (1989) giving the author 1) right to attribution, and 2) right to integrity.


Any document that uses multiple forms of communication, including the use of text, audio, graphics, animated graphics and/or full-motion video.


see Dramatic vs. Non-Dramatic.

Off-Air Recordings

Videotaped recordings of television programs from either broadcast or cable television stations.

Original Work

An original, distinctive piece created by an author or artist.

Performance vs. Display

A key distinction made by the TEACH Act in using copyrighted material online is the difference between performance and display. Performance relates to the recitation or rendition of a work, whether dramatic (as in a play or movie) or non-dramatic (the reading of a poem or the singing of a song). Display refers to copying and making available a text (whether the text of a play, novel, poem, or song lyrics).


Literary works published on a regular basis (i.e. annually, monthly, weekly).


Formal consent to copy a protected work.


The process of copying the work of another without proper citation (i.e. claiming ownership of someone else's work). Not only is plagiarism unethical, but it is also illegal.

Public Performance

To perform or display a work "publicly" means-

  • to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or
  • to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.

Public Domain

Any work that is not covered by copyright registration is considered to be in the public domain. This includes works created before 1922, created for public use, or those works that have over the years fallen into public domain because the copyright expired. This includes documents of the United States government, unless stated otherwise.

Reasonable Portion

In print media, a reasonable portion is defined as 10% of the total work or 1,000 words, whichever is less. In the case of a book, an entire chapter (over 1,000 words) may be used if it does not represent a significant portion of the work.

Significant Portion

A significant portion of a work is the heart of the work. This may be as much as a section, or as short as a page. If a book offers 10 tips to a better life, and one reprints that list (without the commentary from each of the 10 tips), a judge could rule that a significant portion of the work had been copied without permission.


To make action and sound coincide.


Any symbol (word, logo, etc.) used by a company to distinguish its goods/services from those offered by others.

Work For Hire

A work created by an employee in the course of his/her duties, or a commissioned work in which the artist and commissioner agree the work is for hire.

back to top button