A copyright is a monopoly that gives the owner the right to prevent others from unauthorized use of an original work of authorship by duplication, preparation of derivative works, distribution, or public performance.1
The subject matter of copyright is original works of authorship, including literary and musical works, engineering designs, software source code, graphic works, sound recordings, and works of art. Software programs as well as mask works for computer chips can sometimes be protected by patents in addition to copyrights.
Copyright applies only to an author's original expression, not ideas, since ideas belong to the public and may not be monopolized. The idea-expression distinction explains why an original text on plane geometry may be copyrighted, though earlier copyrighted works presented identical ideas. Similarly, anyone can freely use data from a copyrighted book listing melting points of chemical compounds, since empirical data are considered ideas. Unauthorized photocopying of pages from the same book might be copyright infringement, however, because it appropriates the author's selection and organization of data, and the layout of pages and headings, all of which might be original expression.
To be copyrighted, material must be original and fixed in a tangible medium of expression.
Unlike patented inventions, there is no requirement that a copyrighted work be novel in the sense that nothing identical previously existed. The criterion of originality is met if a work is the author's own, not copied from another source.
Prior to 1978, authors were required to adhere to certain formalities (register works with the U.S. Copyright Office, use © notice on works) to obtain full protection, but since a revised federal statute became effective on Jan. 1, 1978, copyright now exists in an original work of authorship as soon as it is fixed in a tangible medium of expression such as a manuscript, audio tape, or computer file. For works created after 1978, former statutory requirements such as copyright registration and use of the copyright mark, ©, are now useful mainly as prerequisites to infringement proceedings to enforce copyright or recover damages for unauthorized use.
In the case of software, copyrights exist even if the copyright notice is not included in the source code. An author may intend to commit the source code to the public domain by leaving off the copyright notice, but they have not granted any rights to others to modify and copy their code. It is a good practice to search for a license statement or to ask the author’s permission before including their code in a new work.
Ownership of copyrights in works written as part of university responsibilities depends on the nature of the copyrighted work. In keeping with academic tradition, copyrights in textbooks or other works of a primarily pedagogical or scholarly nature vest with the faculty author, as governed by CU's Policy on Intellectual Property that is Educational Material. Copyrights in faculty works of a commercial nature, such as training materials for nurse practitioners, would belong to the university, at least in part, if the works were developed using university resources or developed under a university-managed Sponsored Research Program.
Copyrights in software developed by university employees are owned by the university, as governed by CU's Intellectual Property Policy on Discoveries and Patents for their Protection and Commercialization. Royalty revenue from university licensing of copyrights is shared with faculty authors of the work and their research groups and administrative units.4
Copyright notice can be added to a work as soon as it is written. Formal copyright registration is not necessary. Add the notice below to your copyrighted materials.
Proper copyright notice for University of Colorado software: Copyright <Year> Regents of the University of Colorado. All rights reserved.
For software, it can be included in source code files and/or a separate license text file and/or documentation. It is recommended that the copyright also be included on the website. CU Tech Transfer can provide advice on copyright and licensing of software.
To begin this process, please complete the Copyright Disclosure Form (.doc) and return it to CU Innovations at 12635 East Montview Blvd., Suite 270 Aurora, CO 80045, or email the completed form to your CU Tech Transfer case manager (or to firstname.lastname@example.org).5
All members of the project team should agree on common goals for the software and the roles of group members. As the developer community grows, it may beyond the research group, or even the university. It is very important that the copyrights are managed so that the project team has the rights to distribute the project to future collaborators and users. We recommend asking all contributors to agree to the Contributor License Agreement which is based on the Apache Software Foundation's agreement.
University software is subject to the royalty distribution formula in CU's Policy on Discoveries and Patents. If a software project grows to include many CU staff and students over time, each individual may be entitled to a portion of the 25% inventor's share of royalties. Some groups choose to direct the inventors' share into a pool of funds to support the project itself. It is necessary for all CU contributors to sign a Project Participation Agreement to make that possible.
For information on copyrighting your creative/scholarly/pedagogical works, see the CU-Health Sciences Library website on the subject: http://hslibraryguides.ucdenver.edu/Copyright/mooccoprightguidelines7
For works with commercial applications (such as software), CU Tech Transfer can assist with the copyright registration process, help identify potential licensees, and negotiate licenses.8
Although copyright allows authors to prevent unauthorized use of an original work, there are exceptions. Limited copying for the purpose of criticism, comment, teaching, scholarship or research is usually not infringement of a copyright. For more information on fair use, see the CU-Health Scences Library website on the subject: http://hslibraryguides.ucdenver.edu/Copyright/mooccoprightguidelines9