Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by federal law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. The law of copyright covers both published and unpublished works.
What does copyright protect?
Copyright, a form of intellectual property law that derives from the U.S. Constitution. Copyright protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. However, copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.
What are the copyright rights?
Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
- reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
- prepare derivative works based upon the work;
- distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
- perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audio visual works;
- display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work; and
- perform the work publicly (in the case of sound recordings) by means of a digital audio transmission.
What is a derivative work?
A derivative work is a a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. Common examples of a derivative work are sequel to a book or movie.
How is a copyright different from a patent or a trademark?
Copyright protects original works of authorship, while a patent protects inventions or discoveries. Ideas and discoveries are not protected by the copyright law, although the way in which they are expressed may be. A trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishing them from those of others.
When is my work protected?
A work is under copyright protection 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.
Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
No. In general, copyright registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You must register your copyright, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work.
Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?
Copyright registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law.
I’ve heard about a “poor man’s copyright.” What is it?
The practice of mailing a copy of your own work to yourself to prove creation date is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.
Is my copyright good in other countries?
The United States has copyright relations with most countries throughout the world, and as a result of these agreements, we honor each other's citizens' copyrights. However, the United States does not have such copyright relationships with every country.
Source: US Copyright Office
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