The first, purely interesting, factoid to know about copyright law, is that the source for copyright law derives from the United States Constitution. Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, also known as the Copyright Clause or the Copyright and Patent Clause provides: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." Thus, the idea behind the copyright law is to provide protection and incentives to authors to create useful "writings" such as literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture, and more recently the telecasting of NFL football games (GO HAWKS!), website, blogs, tweets, etc.
The second factoid to know about copyright law is that copyright law protects original "works of authorship" that are "fixed in a tangible form of expression." Thus, if the content or work product is original and written down so you can hold it in your hands or see it with your eyes, it is protected by US Copyright Law. This copyright protection attaches the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.
The third factoid to know about copyright law is that copyright law applies even if the "author" does not file an application to register the copyright with the US Copyright Office. It's a good idea to register the copyright because additional protections are afforded to registered works as opposed to unregistered works, but it's not a requirement.
The Fourth factiod to know about copyright law applies to ownership, and this is a biggie.
The general rule of copyright ownership is that the person who authors the work owns the copyright. If there is more than one author of the work–a joint work–all of the authors own the copyright. However, the ownership rules and requirements are different depending on the employment or independent contractor status of the author.
- Employees - If your company has employee "authors" over whom the company has control, their content falls within the “work made for hire” definition, and the employer company owns the copyright.
- Independent contractors - If your company hires independent contractor authors, their work falls within the “specially ordered or commissioned work” definition under the the Copyright Act, and the general ownership rule applies (the author owns the copyright) unless there is a signed written agreement that specifies that their work is a work made for hire. Thus, you will need to include a reference to "work made for hire" in the written contact with the independent contractor.
Copyright 2012 | Mark D. Walters
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