Skip to main content


Copyright is the right given to the author of written material by the government. It applies to any written text, regardless of where it is found (e.g. website, paper book, eBook, handwritten on the back of an envelope, music and software) and applies to visual media (e.g. photos, artwork, videos, movies and performances). Since copyright only applies to the exact form of the work, two similar stories or pieces of computer code do not necessarily infringe upon each other and the content of the work would not be owned by the copyright holder. A musician may record a song and own the copyright on the performance but not the lyrics to the song if someone else wrote it.

Like a patent, copyright gives the author the right to prevent others from reproducing and selling their copyrighted work. Unlike patents, no registration or application needs to be made for copyright to be granted―it exists as soon as the work is created. That said, it is much easier to prove authorship if it is registered.

Copyright lasts varying times after creation in different countries, but generally lasts 50 to 75 years after the death of the author(s).