You may be surprised, but your probably the author of many copyrighted documents and/or manuscripts. As soon as you create a work in a permanent or fixed format you are the holder of the copyright. Unless you give permission to others you have the sole rights to your work. This may have a myriad of implications and something to keep in mind when you share your work.
Copyright covers both published and unpublished works. The work does not have to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office nor have the © symbol.
Type of works included are:
The length of time a work is covered by copyright protection is extensive. Basic rules in the United States include:
This chart, created by Peter Hirtle, provides a detailed outline of the current U.S. copyright law related to duration of copyright: http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm
Keep in mind that Copyright protection does not extend to:
Items in the public domain include:
This information is intended as a guide to basic issues of copyright in an academic setting, especially student-related issues. It is not intended as legal advice. UWF students, faculty, and researchers should consult with the University's legal counsel on specific copyright issues, especially if the publication or access of a document or website will have national or world-wide distribution.
Cornell University: Copyright Term and Public Domain: https://copyright.cornell.edu/publicdomain
For more information check out Copyright Basics @Copyright.gov
The Copyright Genie - Go through a checklist to check for copyright status
It is still possible to use copyrighted material even though the proposed use fails to meet Fair Use Guidelines. In those cases, it is necessary to seek permission from the person or organization holding the copyright. Who holds the copyright is not always easy to ascertain, but there are some general rules of thumb with which to start:
The U.S. Copyright Office provides a brochure providing advice on how to determine the copyright status of a work at http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ22.pdf.
When you are unsure where to turn to find the copyright holder, there are some industry organizations which can help. A very good overview of these organizations, organized by format of material, is on a website, "Getting Permission," produced by the University of Texas at https://guides.lib.utexas.edu/copyright/permission.