What is a Copyright?
A Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States Government to the authors of “original works of authorship.
What types of “Original Works of Authorship are protected?
Copyrightable works include the following categories:
Written words and literary works; (i.e. books, website content, song lyrics, computer program code)
Musical works, including any accompanying words
Pantomimes and choreographic works
Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works (including maps and paintings)
Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
What is the benefit of obtaining a Copyright?
The owner of a copyright obtains the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords; To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
To display the copyrighted 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
In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.
How Long does my Copyright last?
The term of copyright for a particular work depends on several factors, including whether it has been published, and, if so, the date of first publication. As a general rule, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years.
For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first.
For works first published prior to 1978, the term will vary depending on several factors.
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.
I’ve heard about a “poor man’s copyright.” What is it?
The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself 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.