Read the official text of the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 of the United States Code).
United States Copyright Law protects authors or creators of various published and unpublished works. Except as allowed by this code, it is a violation of law for persons to copy, distribute, perform, digitally transmit, or to create a new work based upon a copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright owner.
Copyright does not protect ideas, titles, names, short phrases, works in the public domain, forms that collect information, or links to Web sites. It does, however, protect "forms of expressions" delivered in the following formats:
Musical works (along with accompanying lyrics)
Dramatic works (along with accompanying music)
Pantomimes and choreographic works
Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
Motion pictures and audiovisual works
Copyright law gives an author/creator the exclusive rights to:
Reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords
Prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work
Distribute copies or phonorecords of the work by sale to the public or other transfer of ownership, rental, lease, or lending
Perform literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work publicly.