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US DMC Copyright Law

Copyright law grants authors and artists the exclusive right to make and sell copies of their works, the right to create derivative works, and the right to perform or display their works publicly. These exclusive rights are subject to a time limit, and generally expire 70 years after the author's death. In the United States, any music composed before January 1, 1923, is generally considered public domain.


The United States copyright law protects "original works of authorship," fixed in a tangible medium including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Copyright law protects the "expression" of an idea, but copyright does not protect the "idea" itself, this distinction is called the idea expression dichotomy. This includes incentivizing the creation of art, literature, architecture, music, and other works of authorship. As with many legal doctrines, the effectiveness of copyright law in achieving its stated purpose is a matter of debate. The goal of copyright law, as set forth in the Copyright Clause of the US Constitution, is "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.