Copyright Qs & As: U.S. Copyright Questions

Do you have a copyright or licensing question specific to there U.S. copyright law?  If so, please post it below as a comment.


  1. Lesley says:

    Hi Jeff, generally copyright laws do not provide exceptions for the policy or lawyers. But perhaps the policy or a lawyer is claiming access under another law?

  2. Lesley says:

    Hi Scott, there is no need to obtain permission when using ideas from books, graphs, etc. You only need permission if you are reproducing works such as illustrations and text.

  3. Lesley says:

    If it is an original work, then it will be automatically protected by copyright under the US Copyright Law. Original in copyright parlance means not copied from somewhere else. Make sure that you are not copying from other sources but merely being inspired by them or using data or information rather than reproducing the sources themselves.

  4. Hi Leslie – an instructional course on forensic drug analysis produces a manual comprised of the various faculty members’ Powerpoint slides. This manual is copyrighted and a physical copy is given to each course participant (who has paid to attend the course).

    Question: does anyone (in this case, a police department and a defense attorney) have the right to request this material?

    One side note: this course takes place under the auspices of a university, but I wouldn’t think that would affect whether anyone has the right to this material if they haven’t paid for it.

    Thank you for any advice!

  5. Scott Jesse says:

    Me and my co-workers want to offer continuing education courses in our health care area of expertise. If we do not use specific graphs, texts, illustrations etc., but instead make our own and form our own study content and questions based on current textbooks and journal articles, do we have to pay for copyright? We are required to list references by our association, but what else are we obligated to do in this endeavor?

  6. kathy says:


    I have compiled information from various sources from the internet for a healing manual, i also have some of my own thoughts and experiences written in this manual as well. Would I be able to somehow copyright it? I also have an extensive bibliography as a part of this.

    Thank you Kathy

  7. Lesley says:

    Hi Mary, referring to a person is not a copyright-related issue. Copyright relates to the reproduction or performance of works. You may want to look into privacy and publicity law as well as libel and slander.

  8. Can I refer to a specific well known figure in a piece of fiction, if I cast him in a neutral light?

  9. Lesley says:

    Hi Richard, best to include the earliest copyright date, and even to use a combo date such as 2006-2013.

  10. Richard says:

    I am preparing an ebook for Kindle. I have previously copyrighted (registered and deposited copies as published) it as an ebook in 2006. My question is about any copyright notice as it is supposed to state the year of first publication. Obviously I want to state copyright 2013 but is this nullifying the copyright that was registered in 2006. Or is it better to omit the copyright notice altogether as it is no longer required.

  11. Lesley says:

    Hi Peggy, you can determine copyright protection of a work in the US from this handy table:

  12. Lesley says:

    Hi Michelle, similar to the reproduction in any works, you need permission to reproduce a copyright protected image on a cake. This concerns the reproduction right in the US Copyright Act. Re your second question, both an employee and employer may be responsible for copyright infringement though at the end of the day it is usually the employer/organization who has the funds to pay damages in a lawsuit.

  13. peggy dillard says:

    Can a person copyright a photograph that is well over 100 years old? This person claims copyrights since he published it in a book and also owns the original photograph. A friend of mine has the same original photograph and the author has told her that she cannot sell it. Can he claim that he has a copyright on her photograph? Thanks.

  14. Michelle says:

    What are the laws that pertain to cake decorating? As far as I know it is illegal to to put a copyrighted image on a cake, but I wondered if there were any other details you could supply or a link you could guide me to with the pertinent laws.

    Also, If an employer requires employees to use copyrighted images, is the employee held responsible or just the employer? What are the possible penalties for copyright infringement?

  15. Lesley says:

    Hi Kristi, when you purchase an image, you only own the physical image and not the copyright in it.

  16. Kristi says:


    When an original image is purchased at a yardsle with no limitations or restrictions whatsoever on the sale, is the copyright transferred as well?


  17. Lesley says:

    Hi Justin, is it possible that all of these works are owned by your company? You’d have to check with the company, perhaps the legal department. Also, if you are employed, chances are any work you do for the company is owned by that company, unless you have an agreement otherwise. Your first step is to investigate both these questions/answers.

  18. Justin says:

    I am writing an unsolicited, procedural / how to manual for the company I work for. I will be using the company’s registered logo, scans of printed reports and screen shots from several of the computer programs we use daily. The printed reports are generated from the computer programs and or spreadsheets. Most of the spreadsheets, I have made myself while others were in place when I took the job. The author of some of the spreadsheets is unknown as they have been in use for years and many people have moved on. A few of the spreadsheets were created, and are maintained, by our corporate office. I would like to register my work with the U.S. Copyright Office. My question is: what do I need to do in order to use the trademark and screenshots and how will using them affect the registration of the book? Any advice you could afford me would be greatly appreciated.

  19. Lesley says:

    Hi Leah, using quotes is always a judgment call. You should read up on fair use and see how you can apply your particular circumstances with the fair use purposes and factors. Only you can make the call as to whether you need permission for your quote. A copyright symbol is not mandatory in the U.S.

  20. Leah says:

    I am preparing my first ever blog post and would like to quote the first paragraph of Dr. Suess’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” as an introduction to a personal essay on freedom of expression during the holidays. Do I need to get permission from the publisher to do this? Also, would I need to use the copyright symbol anywhere? Thanks.

  21. Lesley says:

    Hi Bob, depending on the circumstances, that may be an infringement of copyright and moral rights.

  22. Bob says:

    Can someone scan a newspaper, or clippings from a newspaper, and claim the image as his own work?

  23. Lesley says:

    Hi Rebecca, you are right in that the copyright duration is different in Canada and the US. You apply the duration where the works are being used. So if you are using the works in Alberta, then apply Canadian law. If in New York, apply US law. If the works are being placed online and may be accessed in the US, use the longer duration of life plus 70.

  24. Hi Lesley,

    We’re a Canadian museum with a number of works by American artists in our collection. Recently, according to Canadian Copyright, the rights have expired on one of the artists (life of the author plus 50 years) but according to American Copyright, the rights are still applicable(life plus author 70 years). There has been some debate in the building but I think that American Copyright takes precedence since the artist and the estate are both American. Help!



  25. Lesley says:

    Hi Brad, the U.S. Copyright Office has a circular on what educational institutions and libraries are permitted to do under the Copyright Act. It is at

  26. Can a department on a college campus (not the library), legally purchase a DVD, make a copy, and loan the copies to students? Also note said campus does not yet have a copyright policy (it’s still being approved) and cannot invoke TEACH. (not that the lack of Teach matters)

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