Royalty-free (RF) materials that are covered by copyright or other intellectual property rights can be used without having to pay royalties or licensing fees each time they are used, per each copy or volume sold, or per certain time periods when they are used or sold. Royalty-free is a term used to describe some types of intellectual property you are allowed to use without having to pay royalties. The owner of an intellectual property needs to put Royalty Free explicitly in its content for someone to be allowed to use it this way. You should never use content that may be protected by one of these types of intellectual property without explicit permission from the owner.
Whether it is covered by copyright, trademark, patent, or trade secret laws, protected materials should be left unused unless you have the express permission of, and the proper permission of, the owner. There is no provision within the Copyright Act regarding any of these types of protections, nor is there a substitute for registration. Without patent protection, anyone is free to use similar designs, products, and processes with little or no risk. With patent protection, a paying entity may bring legal action against anyone who copies the patents invention, design, or breakthrough.
Copyright protects the original works of authorship, whereas a patent protects an invention or discovery. Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the US Constitution, granted under the Act, to original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. With copyright protection, the owner has exclusive rights to alter, distribute, perform, create, exhibit, and reproduce a work. Unlike trademarks, which specify that a particular object or design is protected, copyright covers another’s expression of ideas.
Ideas and discoveries are not protected under the Copyright Act, though how they are expressed can be. Copyright, patents, and trademarks share certain characteristics in common with the traditional forms of tangible property. For instance, someone might use an intellectual property right to name one or more of trade secrets, publicity rights, semiconductor masks, or industrial designs, among others. In fact, the phrase intellectual property first came into widespread usage in the United States when advocates for the patent system sought to combine patent law with copyright law in order to benefit from the relatively safer reputation of copyright law during the late 1800s.
The intellectual property law is generally understood as providing incentives to authors and inventors to produce works to the public good, regulating public use of those works in order to assure authors and inventors are compensated for their efforts. A patent grants property rights to an invention, permitting the patent owner to prohibit others from making, selling, or using the invention. A copyright may also be sold, with the property transferred to another entity, who is then the recipient of any compensation for its use, and maintains exclusive rights of use and distribution.
After a set time has passed, copyright may be renewed, or the original work is allowed to enter into the public domain, where it can be used lawfully without crediting the original creator, and without the requirement for compensation to the previous owner. In cases when the funder obtains title to the copyright or invention, the university retains a royalty-free right to use the intellectual property for any domestic research and teaching purposes, and can maintain a sublicense to researchers for research and teaching purposes. Generally, copyrighted materials are protected and cannot be used without authorization and the payment of royalties.