COPYRIGHT LAW BASICS
Disclaimer: The following material is informational and general in nature and not intended to be offered as legal advice. To obtain legal advice an attorney should be consulted with the specific facts of your case
What is a copyright?
1.0 A copyright gives the “author” of certain categories of works of authorship the ability to protect the author’s particular method of expressing an idea from being copied or infringed by another.
1.1 A copyright does not give the author rights in the idea being expressed.
1.1.1 What this means, in other words, is that others are able to express the same idea, if the original author’s unique way of expressing the idea is not copied.
Subject matter eligible for copyright
2.0 Copyrightable subject matter (17 U.S.C. Section 102)
2.1 “a. Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories:
(1) literary works;
(2) musical works, including any accompanying words;
(3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
(4) pantomimes and chorographic works;
(5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
(6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
(7) sound recordings; and
(8) architectural works.” (emphasis added)
Rights Deriving from a copyright
3.1 Ownership of a copyright generally grants to the owner the exclusive right to:
3.1.1 Reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
3.1.2 Prepare derivative works based on the work;
3.1.3 Distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
3.1.4 To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic and chorographic works, pantomimes and motion pictures and other audio-visual works;
3.1.5 To display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic and chorographic works, pantomimes and motion pictures and other audio-visual works;
3.1.6 In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.
4.1 Copyrights are registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, which is a part of the Library of Congress. Check out the website at http://www.copyright.gov.
4.1.1 The registration process is relatively simple, usually not requiring an attorney. Find the appropriate form at the Copyright Office website, submit a copy of the work and pay a modest fee (currently $35 if filed electronically). There is no substantive examination of the work.
4.2 A registered copyright is required to be able to bring suit against another for infringement. While it is possible to register a copyright after infringement occurs, damages will not accrue until after the date of registration.
4.3 All works eligible for copyright are considered to be copyrighted at the time of creation, however, as explained in 4.2 above, this is a limited amount of protection.
5.0 Copyright duration depends on when the work was created
5.1 Works created on or after January 1, 1978
5.1.1 Protected from the moment of its creation for the author’s life plus 70 years
5.1.2 For works made for hire or anonymous or pseudonymous works, the work is protected for 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.
5.2 Works created before January 1, 1978 (but not published or registered by that date).
5.2.1 Protected from the moment of its creation for the author’s life plus 70 years.
5.2.2 For works made for hire or anonymous or pseudonymous works, the work is protected for 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.