Copyright FAQs

What is a copyright?
A copyright provides protection for “original works of authorship fixed in tangible medium” and gives the copyright owner the exclusive right to profit from the reproduction, distribution, performance or display of the work. This includes literary, dramatic, musical, artistic paintings and statues, and other original creative works.

Who can get a copyright?
The author of an original work is eligible for copyright protection. The author may be the owner, but not always, For example, under certain conditions, known as a “work made for hire,” the copyright belongs to the employer.

How do I get a copyright?
The copyright attaches automatically the moment the created work is fixed in a tangible medium, such as paper, audio tape, website, computer disk, etc.

What kinds of work are eligible for a copyright?
Ideas cannot be copyrighted but an original expression of those ideas is copyrightable. Copyrights protect original expressions of things, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, paints, statues, decorative novelties, lace and print patterns, software and architecture, but it does not protect the naked idea or the means to create them.

What is copyright registration?
Copyright registration is the process of applying to the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress to make a public record of the creation and secure a registration number for it.

Why seek a copyright registration?
In order to bring a lawsuit for copyright infringement it is necessary to have a copyright registration. In addition, if a cordite registration is obtained within 3 months of publication or before the infringements begins be eligible for an award of statutory damages and attorneys’ fees in a copyright infringement case, the copyrighted work must be registered before infringement commences, or, if the work is published, within 3 months of publication. Statutory damages are particularly valuable for a copyright owner where it is dicofol to prove actual monetary damages resulting from the infringement.

Can I sell, license or transfer a copyright?
Yes. There are many examples of movies, plays, books etc. that have been sold and licensed. In some cases there are compulsory licenses granted for performances.

How long does copyright protection last?
As a general rule, works created after January 1, 1978, have a term equal to the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. The term may differ if the copyrighted work was created anonymously or under a pseudonym.

How can I check the copyright status of a work?
There are three basic ways to check if the work is copyrighted: (1) examine a copy of the work for a copyright notice, (2) search the Copyright Office catalogs or (3) have the Copyright Office conduct a search for you. However, one must remember that certain works created after 1988 are not subject to a mandatory copyright notice.

What is the form of a copyright notice?
A typical copyright notice is placed on an object in an easily observed location and includes:

(1) the symbol ©
(2) the year of first publication, and
(3) the name of the copyright owner.

Additional information is available at the U.S. Copyright Office website.

The above is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Neither the availability, operation, transmission, receipt nor use of this information is intended to create, or constitute formation of an attorney-client relationship or any other special relationship or privilege. You should not rely upon this information for any purpose without seeking legal advice from a licensed attorney.

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