A copyright is a proprietary interest that vests with the author or originator of certain literary, artistic, or digital works and, for a specified period, grants to the copyright holder the sole and exclusive privilege of reproducing copies of the work for publication and sale. Works of authorship include such categories as: (1) literary works, (2) musical works, (3) dramatic works, (4) pantomimes and choreographic works, (5), pictorial, digital graphic, and sculptural works, (6) motion pictures or other audio visual works, (7) sound recordings, and (8) computer programs.
The Copyright Act of 1976 is a Federal law that stipulates the technical requirements of a copyright and the vesting periods of copyright ownership for works created since January 1, 1978. For works copyrighted before 1978, The Copyright Act of 1909 applies. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 extended traditional copyright protection to works created in digital format that are published in digital format with the aid of computer technologies.
Generally, the use of works owned by copyright holders must be with the explicit permission of the copyright holder. There are limited exceptions to this requirement. The most common exception is the "fair use" doctrine of a copyrighted work. The "fair use" doctrine allows for a reasonable use of copyrighted works without the need to obtain the permission of the copyright holder. In determining whether the fair use doctrine applies, four factors are taken into consideration. They are (1) whether the purpose of the use of the copyrighted work is for non-profit educational purposes, (2) the nature of the copyrighted work [copyrighted works that are primarily creative works rather than factual works are generally afforded more protection under copyright law], (3) whether a substantial portion is used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and (4) whether the use has an impact on either the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.