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Research Guides



Welcome!  I am Graham Henderson and I am a Collections Librarian and the Copyright Officer for Wellesley College.  I advise members of the college community on all things copyright and serve as the college’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) designated agent.

I received a B.A. from the University of Vermont, a J.D. from Vermont Law School, and an M.S.L.I.S. from Simmons College.

A copyright expert once said that "The answer to 90% of all copyright questions is 'It depends.'"  And while it's true that each copyright question brings with it unique facts, the intent of this guide is to provide guidance to the most commonly arising copyright questions.


What Is Copyright?

Copyright protects original works and intellectual property. A work does not have to be published or registered to be protected—copyright automatically applies as soon as the work is created/expressed in a fixed or tangible way, e.g., written down, recorded, or photographed. Copyright laws give creators/authors the exclusive right to reproduce, sell, and publish their works.

Copyright is signified with the symbol "©," although works do not require the display of the symbol to be protected.

Generally, copyright lasts during the entirety of the author’s life, plus 70 years after their death. When it expires, the works enter the public domain.

The basis for copyright comes from Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 in the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the ability “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”



What Is Protected by Copyright

  • Literary works, including compilations meeting minimal requirements for originality and creativity in selection and arrangement of content

  • Musical works, including any accompanying words

  • Dramatic works, including any accompanying music

  • Pantomimes and choreographic works

  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works

  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works

  • Sound recordings, with the exception of U.S. sound recordings fixed before February 15, 1972 that are protected by state laws until they acquire federal copyright protection in 2067

  • Architectural works- both architectural plans and physical constructions

What Is Not Protected by Copyright

  • Facts, ideas, procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles, and discoveries

  • U.S. federal government works

  • Works in the public domain

  • Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans

  • Mere listings of ingredients or contents

  • Data as fact. However, while factual data elements are not protected by copyright in the U.S., these forms of data may be protected:

    • Data as a copyrighted work (literary work, chart, graph, audiovisual work, sound recording, etc.)

    • Data as a compilation of data elements