What is Copyright?

A copyright is a constitutional right you have on an original work created by you that has some tangible form. At its simplest, if you created something, you have a copyright on it by default. It's not something given to you via government registration. Copyright is ensured automatically when a design or product is created, and you can file it with the Library of Congress Copyright Office. You don't have to register, but there is a legal advantage in doing so. Copyrights can also belong to a company. If you work for a company and create art as their employee, by default the company owns that copyright.

On the other hand, trademarks and patents are different from copyright. They represent intellectual property ownership and who has the right to use or sell that property. Please see the United States Patent and Trademark Office website to learn more.

Copyright can cover works of literature, music, drama, dance, art, design, and other pictures and audiovisual media. This is also interpreted to broadly include other intellectual works such as games, computer software, automated databases, and web sites.

Note: Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.

"Whatever in creation exists without my knowledge exists without my consent." - Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

UCI Copyright Experts

John P Renaud

Associate University Librarian for Research Resources
The University of California, Irvine
Langson Office:
Science Library Office:

Shu Fen (Fannie) Tsai

Instructional Designer
(949) 824-3809

Kailey Baez

Instructional Designer
(949) 824-9228

Natalie Hadland

Digital Media Producer
(949) 824-5331