Exclusive Rights of the Copyright Holder — 17 U.S.C. Sect.106


Copyright is automatic as soon as an original work is fixed. It can be a poem written on a napkin and unpublished, a document on your computer, an email, or a speech written in longhand. If it is original, and fixed, copyright exists and the author can claim exclusive rights.

In today's digital environment, it is increasingly easy to infringe on someone else's exclusive rights, simply by virtue of how we work today. Also, it has been common practice in the academy for authors to sign away their exclusive rights to their journal publishers. As awareness grows concerning exclusive rights, authors are negotiating with their publishers to retain some of their exclusive rights. Knowing what rights are yours to engage in, and when your actions might be infringing on others' exclusive rights, is critical.

Only the copyright holder (remember that the copyright holder may be a publisher) can exercise these exclusive rights. Any of these rights may be "unbundled," or individually retained or signed away. Exclusive rights are the right to:

  • Reproduce/make copies
  • Distribute/publish
  • Adapt
  • Display publicly
  • Perform publicly
  • Digital sound public performance (1995) 17 U.S.C. Sect.106(6)

A statutory exemption can be applied so you can engage in the rights listed above, without seeking permission(s). When you apply the exemption for fair use, you must apply all four factors of the exemption to your proposed use of the copyrighted work, balancing the results to a 'fair' finding for your use. The exemption must be applied each time you use a copyrighted work, and your judgment and analysis of fair use should be documented in case of future need.

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