Copyright, the legal protection given to authors, artists, and composers to prevent reproduction, sale, or adaptation of their work without their consent. The copyright owner has exclusive rights for printing, reprinting, copying, selling, and adapting the copyrighted material. Rights included in copyright may be inherited or transferred much as other property. They may also be protected against infringement in the courts.
Works not protected by copyright are in the public domain and may be copied and used freely by anyone In most countries, copyright protection extends throughout the author's or artist's lifetime and 50 years beyond; upon expiration of the copyright, the work falls into the public domain.