Copyright is a set of exclusive rights. By exclusive we mean that the owner of the rights has the sole authority to permit or forbid covered activities. There are five basic things that a copyright holder can authorize or prevent — reproduction, meaning making copies of her work; distribution of the work; public performance of the work; public display of the work and the preparation of derivative works. A derivative work is a work based on the original, like a translation or a film adaptation. All of these rights can be sold or transferred to others, and they can be divided up and sold to different parties.
It is important to note what rights are not given to the copyright holder. They do not have the ability to prevent private displays or performances, for example. Most importantly, there is no right to authorize or prevent uses of the work, as there is in patent law. A user is permitted to make use of a work they acquire without further permission as long as they do not copy it, make a derivative work, or offer a public performance or display. A user is also permitted to distribute the legally acquired copy of the work as they see fit.