Copyright Basics: Overview
Nothing on these pages should be construed as legal advice
Copyright balances the rights of creators with the rights of the public to use a work without permission or payment. Under copyright, authors have the right to control the use of their work, subject to the exceptions permitted under the law (see sidebar). If the use exceeds these exceptions, then infringing on someone's copyright can lead to monetary damages (civil liability) and/or prison (criminal liability).
(Adapted, with permission, from the website of the Purdue University Copyright Office)