For more on copyright management, see our Copyright Basics and Best Practices guide with tips directed toward university faculty authors.
Copyright, like patent law, is exclusionary, but rather than ideas, it applies to the use of "original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible form of expression". A central tenet of copyright is that authors should have the right to reasonably control the use of their creative output and to receive appropriate recognition for their contribution. Copyright exists upon the creation of an eligible work—you do not have to do anything to obtain it.
Creating a license or simple permission for the use of copyrighted work is a way to reserve rights and grant permissions consistent with how you want your work to be used or modified. It is important, however, to be aware of "fair use" if your work is used without a license, or if you wish to use someone else's copyrighted works.
The Copyright Clearance Office, part of Printing & Mailing Services, can assist with copyright questions related to class materials.
Another helpful resource is the Creative Commons website, which has a number of short videos that explain the utility of licenses for copyrighted material. The Stanford University and the University of Chicago websites also provide extensive reviews and discussion of copyright issues.
If you are considering creating or have created a copyrighted work (book, manual, software, video, photographs, etc.) in the course of your academic research and wish to discuss your goals for the use of the material, the staff at IPS are available to help you explore the available options.