Copyright FAQ

What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.

What rights does copyright protect?

A copyright owner has exclusive rights to his or her work and only the owner, or those authorized by the owner, may copy, distribute, display, or perform the work, and create derivative works (modifications).

What about fair use?

However, there are some important exceptions which allow others to use your works without your permission, most prominently “fair use” of works for purposes like criticism, comment, teaching, scholarship, and research. Determining whether a particular use of another’s copyrighted works constitutes “fair use” can be a difficult analysis and should be considered carefully. See for more info.

How to manage copyright rights?

Effective, early management of copyright rights can be critical to a smooth transition of your work from academia to commercialization. Licensing opportunities may be stalled or thwarted if UW does not have the necessary rights to license/distribute your work to third parties, which may affect ultimate success and revenue back to UW.

Some suggestions are:

• Try to determine/clarify ownership of works before they are created (applicable contracts, policy, etc.).

• Assume you need permission from third party copyright owners to use their work.

• Keep records regarding third party content: where you obtained the content, from whom, and track permissions sought and obtained.

• Always provide proper copyright notice. Notice is not required, but it is highly recommended to include it on works of authorship. For UW-Owned and UW-Sponsored copyrightable works, an example of proper notice is © [year of first publication] University of Washington, for example:

© 2020 University of Washington.

Is registration needed?

Federal registration of a copyright is not required to have copyright rights. Federal registration is required to bring an infringement action, however, and it provides specific presumptions and damages. Registration of university materials is not always necessary or appropriate.