What is a Copyright?

A copyright establishes ownership of original works of authorship "fixed" in any tangible medium of expression. A copyright applies to the expression of an idea, whether published or not. Once an original work is created and fixed, copyright exists.
What Can Be Copyrighted?

Examples include: books, poetry, plays, short stories, articles, comic books, musical compositions (words and/or music), audio and video recordings, choreographic works, pantomimes, motion pictures, filmstrips, TV programs, photographs, paintings, drawings, prints, maps, architectural plans, scale models, sculpture, craft works, jewelry designs, fabric designs, computer programs and databases.

What Rights Are Owned?

The Copyright Act grants copyright owners exclusive rights in five categories: reproduction, adaptation, public distribution, public performance and public display.

Through written agreement, the owner of a copyright can authorize or license others to exercise these rights. Any of the exclusive rights that make up a copyright and any subdivision of them can be transferred and owned separately, even though the transfer may be limited in time or place of effect. Any owner of an exclusive right may apply for registration of a claim in the work.

With a federally registered copyright, creators have an advantage in negotiating these rights.

Work Made for Hire

If the work is a specially commissioned work in accordance with an agreement or the work was completed as an employee, the creator of the work may not be legally entitled to claim authorship and ownership of the copyright. The contracting party or employer would be the author and owner of the work as a "work made for hire".

How Long Does a Copyright Last?

A copyright typically runs for the life of the creator, plus 70 years. The copyright for certain works, including those created for an employer, lasts 120 years from creation or 95 years from publication, whichever occurs first.

The Need For Notice

Displaying a copyright notice may be needed to claim protection in certain countries. Including a copyright notice is not required for protection in most countries, including the United States. However, it can prevent alleged infringers from claiming “innocent infringement,” thereby limiting the amount of damages you may recover.

Protection in the U.S. and Worldwide

A copyright will have protection under U.S. law. Copyrights can also be protected internationally.


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