The jet energy scale (JES) and its systematic uncertainty are determined for jets measured with the ATLAS detector at the LHC in proton-proton collision data at a centre-of-mass energy of sqrt(s) = 7 TeV corresponding to an integrated luminosity of 38 inverse pb. Jets are reconstructed with the anti-kt algorithm with distance parameters R=0.4 or R=0.6. Jet energy and angle corrections are determined from Monte Carlo simulations to calibrate jets with transverse momenta pt > 20 GeV and pseudorapidities eta 50 GeV after a dedicated correction for this effect. The JES is validated for jet transverse momenta up to 1 TeV to the level of a few percent using several in situ techniques by comparing a well-known reference such as the recoiling photon pt, the sum of the transverse momenta of tracks associated to the jet, or a system of low-pt jets recoiling against a high-pt jet. More sophisticated jet calibration schemes are presented based on calorimeter cell energy density weighting or hadronic properties of jets, providing an improved jet energy resolution and a reduced flavour dependence of the jet response. The JES systematic uncertainty determined from a combination of in situ techniques are consistent with the one derived from single hadron response measurements over a wide kinematic range. The nominal corrections and uncertainties are derived for isolated jets in an inclusive sample of high-pt jets.