A legal right created by the law of a country that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution.
This is usually only for a limited time. The exclusive rights are not absolute but limited by limitations and exceptions to copyright law, including fair use. A major limitation on copyright is that copyright protects only the original expression of ideas, and not the underlying ideas themselves.
Copyright is a form of intellectual property, applicable to certain forms of creative work. Some, but not all jurisdictions require “fixing” copyrighted works in a tangible form. It is often shared among multiple authors, each of whom holds a set of rights to use or license the work, and who are commonly referred to as rights holders. These rights frequently include reproduction, control over derivative works, distribution, public performance, and “moral rights” such as attribution.
Copyrights are considered territorial rights, which means that they do not extend beyond the territory of a specific jurisdiction. While many aspects of national copyright laws have been standardized through international copyright agreements, copyright laws vary by country. Typically, the duration of a copyright spans the author’s life plus 50 to 100 years (that is, copyright typically expires 50 to 100 years after the author dies, depending on the jurisdiction). Some countries require certain copyright formalities to establishing copyright, but most recognize copyright in any completed work, without formal registration. Generally, copyright is enforced as a civil matter, though some jurisdictions do apply criminal sanctions.
Copyright can be transferred or exclusively licensed (through license to publish) to another entity such as a publisher. It is crucial to know who owns the copyright in a work, as the copyright owner controls the right to make something open access.
Related Terms: Intellectual property (new glossary term needed)
UK Context: IPO (Intellectual Property Office) REF2.