Copyright law, as defined in Title 17 of the United States Code, protects "original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression" for a limited period. Copyright protection includes, for instance, the legal right to publish and sell literary, artistic or musical work, and copyright protects authors, publishers and producers, and the public. Copyright applies both to traditional media (books, records, etc.) and to digital media (electronic journals, web sites, etc.). Specifically, it protects the following eight categories of works:
Ownership of a copyrighted work includes the right to control the use of that work. Others may use the work, but to do so requires either permission from the author or reliance on the doctrine of fair use. Failure to do one or the other will expose the user to a claim of copyright infringement.
This video from the Copyright Clearance Center covers the basics of copyright in a brief, informative and interesting way. You are encouraged to watch it.
This document gives a basic overview of fair use, the TEACH Act and the Creative Commons, as well as provides information on how to use copyrighted and openly accessed materials in both face-to-face and online courses.