Copyright: What is Not Covered
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. I AM NOT A LAWYER. DO NOT DEPEND ON THIS.
By Andrew Hudson Published: June 7, 2011 Updated: November 26, 2013
It’s important to note what is not covered by copyright.
Copyright covers form but not idea. It applies to the tangible artistic result — known as the “form of material expression” — not the underlying concept. So your photograph has copyright, but not the idea or viewpoint behind it. For example, if you take a great photo of some natural thing, such as a beach or Yosemite Valley, you can’t stop other people from taking the same photo.
Some things are in the “public domain” and are free for the people to use. This includes artwork published before 1923; copyrights that have expired (complex); and public property such as written laws.
Copyright does not apply to facts, since these are universal not individual. Factual dates and figures can’t be copyrighted, but text expressing those facts may be.
Copyright can expire. In the U.S., the duration is lifetime plus 70 years.
Copyright does not prevent resale. In the U.S., after the “first sale", the owner can resell a work as-is (the work can’t be copied or resold in an altered form).
Copyright may be superceded when other laws apply, such as trademark or privacy.
Fair use is permitted. This is complex, see fair use.