The owner of a copyright has the exclusive right to do and to authorize any of the following:
1) Reproduction of the copyrighted work in copies (material objects) and phonorecords
2) Preparation of derivative works based upon the copyrighted work.
3) Distribution of copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public
by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.
4) In the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes,
and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted
5) 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, to display the copyrighted work
A derivative work is a work derived from another work. A translation, musical
arrangement, and sound recording are some examples of a derivative work.
Copyright protection exists for original works of authorship when they become
fixed in a tangible form or expression. Copyrightrable works include works
in the following categories:
1) Literary works including computer programs and most compilations.
2) Musical works including any accompanying words.
3) Dramatic works including any accompanying music.
4) Pantomimes and choreographic works.
5) Pictorial, graphic and sculptural works.
6) Motion pictures and other audiovisual works.
7) Sound recordings.
Titles, names, trademarks, lists of ingredients, and other short phrases and
combinations of words, similar symbols and designs can not protected by copyright.
For example, one court held the phrases "Telegram," "Gift Check" and "Priority
Message" on envelopes to lack the minimum creativity needed for copyright
protection. Basic geometric shapes, such as circles, squares, rectangles and
ellipses, are also not protected by copyright. The format and typography of
a work are not protected.
Works not fixed in tangible form are not protected by copyright.
Copyright does not protect mere ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes,
concepts, principles or discoveries as distinguished from a description, explanation
Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases. In some
cases, these things may be protected as trademarks.
Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing
no original authorship, for example, standard calendars, height and weight
charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public
documents or other common sources are also not protected by copyright.
Original writings, artwork, photographs, and other forms of authorship
appearing on a website can be protected by copyright.
Copyright is owned by the author of a work unless there is a written agreement
by which the author assigns the copyright to another person or entity.
In cases of a work made for hire, the employer and not the employee is presumptively
considered the author.
The authors of a joint work are co-owners of the copyright in the work unless
there is an agreement to the contrary.
A work made for hire is:
1) A work prepared by an employee within the scope of the employee's employment.
2) A work specially ordered or commissioned for us as a contribution to a collective
work, such as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as
an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas,
if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that
the work shall be considered a work made for hire.
No. Under present copyright law, an original work is protected by copyright
as soon as it is created and fixed in any tangible medium of expression from
which the work can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either
directly, or indirectly, with the aid of a machine or device. Registration
with the Copyright Office is not mandatory but there are certain significant
legal benefits that arise from a timely registration.
Registration is ordinarily necessary before any infringement suits may be filed
in court, except in the case of foreign owners. If registration is made within
3 months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work,
statutory damages and attorney's fees will be available to the copyright owner
in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is
available to the copyright owner.
The Copyright Office indicates that a copyright registration will ordinarily be issued in about 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 months in the case of online filing with an uploaded electronic deposit copy. Processing time for online filings with a mailed physical deposit copy takes about 4-1/2 to 7-1/2 months from the date of submission. Applications filed by mail are receiving a certificate of registration in about 18 to 20 months. All dates are approximate and may vary. In special circumstances, it is possible to further expedite the issuance of a copyright registration.
For works that are created on or after January 1, 1978, copyright protection
automatically begins when the work is actually created and fixed in a tangible
form. The duration of copyright for a work created by a single author is the
author’s life plus 70 years. In the case of "a joint work prepared
by two or more authors who did not work for hire," the term lasts for
70 years after the last surviving author's death. For works made for hire,
and for anonymous and pseudonymous works (unless the author's identity is revealed
in Copyright Office records), the duration of copyright will be 95 years from
publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.
Under the law in effect before 1978, copyright was secured either on the date
a work was published with notice of copyright or on the of registration if
the work was registered in unpublished form. In either case, copyright lasted
for a term of 28 years from the date on which it was secured. During the last
(28th) year of the first term, the copyright was eligible for renewal. The
copyright law extends the renewal term from 28 years to 67 years for copyrights
in existence on January 1, 1978.
Publication is the distribution of copies of a work to the public by sale or
other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending. The offering to
distribute copies to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution,
public performance or public display also constitutes publication. A public
performance or display of a work does not itself constitute publication.
The 1909 Copyright Act and the 1976 Copyright Act as originally enacted (effective
January 1, 1978) required a notice of copyright on published works. Under the
1909 Copyright Act, publication in the United States or elsewhere with authority
of the copyright owner without notice resulted in the work falling into the
public domain. As originally enacted, the 1976 Copyright Act required that
all visually perceptible published copies of a work, or published phonorecords
of a sound recording, should bear a proper copyright notice. This applies to
such works published before March 1, 1989. After March 1, 1989, notice of copyright
on these works is optional. Use of a notice, however, is recommended.
Yes. Although use of a notice is no longer mandatory, the failure to
use a copyright notice may provide an infringer with an innocent user defense.
The notice should include the symbol "©" (the letter "©" in
a circle), or the word "Copyright" or the abbreviation "Copr.",
the year of first publication of the work, and the name of the owner of
copyright in the work.Example: © 1999 John Doe
The North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act (NAFTA) and
the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA) may restore copyright in certain
works of foreign origin that were in the public domain in the United States.
Anyone who violates the exclusive rights of the copyright owner or who
imports copies or phonorecords into the United States, without the authority
of the copyright owner, is an infringer of the copyright.
An infringer is liable for either the copyright owner's actual damages
and any additional profits of the infringer or statutory damages. Recovery
is alternative and for the copyright owner to elect. If statutory damages
are elected, a court may award between $750 and $30,000. The amount may
be increased to a maximum of $150,000 in cases of willful infringement
or reduced, in cases of certain "innocent" infringements, to
$200. The amount of statutory damages may be multiplied if separate works
and/or separately liable infringers are involved. If a proper copyright
notice is used, then no weight will be given to a defense by an infringer
on innocent infringement in mitigation of actual or standing damages.
The court may also award attorneys fees to the prevailing party. However,
statutory damages and attorneys fees are not available if the copyright
is not registered prior to infringement or within three months of publication.
Fair use is a use of a copyrighted work for purposes such as criticism,
comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research and is not
an infringement of the copyright. due to the endless variety of situations
and combinations of circumstances that can rise in particular cases, the
distinction between "fair use" and infringement may be unclear
and not easily decided. There is no specific number of words, lines, or
notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source
of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.
In determining whether a use is a fair use, the copyright law sets forth four
factors to be considered:
1) The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial
nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
2) The nature of the copyrighted work.
3) The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted
work as a whole.
4) The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted
When it is impracticable to obtain permission to use a copyrighted work, use
of copyrighted material should be avoided unless a competent legal opinion
has been obtained indicating that the doctrine of "fair use" would
clearly apply to the situation.