Q. What does a copyright protect?
A. A copyright protects any original work of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression. Copyright subsists in novels, songs, photographs, sculpture, movies, poetry, computer software, architecture, literary, dramatic, choreographic, and musical works. Facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation are not protected by copyright, but their selection, coordination and arrangement may be protected.
Q. What rights does a copyright afford?
A. A copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, prepare derivative works, distribute copies of the work to the public, and publicly perform or display the work. In the case of visual arts, the artist has the moral rights of attribution and integrity.
Q. How long does a copyright last?
A. The answer is, it depends. Primarily, duration depends on whether the work was created before or after January 1, 1978, the effective date for amendments of the Copyright Act of 1909. Duration of copyright was most recently amended by the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, signed into law on October 27, 1998. Specific provisions of the Act are as follows:
For works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection will endure for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years In the case of a joint work, the term lasts for 70 years after the last surviving author's death. For anonymous and pseudonymous works and works made for hire, the term will be 95 years from the year of first publication or 120 years from the year of creation whichever expires first;
For works created but not published or registered before January 1, 1978, the term endures for the life of the author plus 70 years, but in no case will expire earlier than December 31, 2002. If the work is published before December 31, 2002, the term will not expire before December 31, 2047;
For pre-1978 works still in their original or renewal term of copyright, the total term is extended to 5 years from the date that copyright was originally secured.
Q. Am I required to register my copyright?
A. No. Copyright attaches as soon as a work is fixed in tangible form, or in the language of the Copyright Act, as soon as the work is fixed in any tangible medium of expression, from which it can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.
Q. Why should I register my copyright?
A. Copyright automatically attaches to an original work of authorship, once it has been reduced to tangible form, but certain statutory damages for infringement and attorney's fees are only available if a copyright registration has been filed. Registering your copyright also creates a public record of your work, ant the author receives a formal certificate of registration.
Q. How much does it cost to register a copyright?
A. We are pleased to offer a capped fee for the preparation and filing of a copyright registration in addition to a $30.00 government filing fee.
Q. Are copyrights transferable?
A. Yes. Like all forms of intellectual property, all or part of the rights in a work may be transferred by the owner. Transfer is accomplished by executing a written agreement or license between the parties.
Q. What is copyright infringement?
A. Anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner, or any of the moral rights of an artist in the case of visual arts is liable for copyright infringement. Anyone who copies, reproduces, displays, performs, or distributes a copyrighted work is liable for direct infringement. Courts have also recognized vicarious or contributory liability for copyright infringement, where one contributes to the infringing conduct of another.
Q. What is meant by the term "fair use"?
A. Fair use is a defense to a charge of copyright infringement. The fair use doctoring excuses copyright infringement where rigid application of the copyright laws would unfairly curtail creativity or the distribution presentation of useful information to the public.
Four factors are generally considered to weigh whether a use is a fair use:
Q. What is a deposit?
A. A deposit is a copy (two copies for published works) of a work to be registered for copyright. To register a copyright, a deposit must be sent with the registration application and filing fee. The deposit becomes the property of the Library of Congress.
Q. Will my copyrighted work be protected in other countries?
A. The United States is a member of t number of international conventions by which signatory countries agree to honor the copyrights of each other's citizens. Protection is not afforded in every country. The list of signatory countries is accessible from the Library of Congress website at www.loc.gov.
Q. Where can I learn more about copyrights?
A. Our office offers comprehensive services for registering your copyright, offering infringement opinions, and litigating infringement claims. Feel free to call our office about any further questions relating to copyright registration or infringement.
More information about copyrights is also available at a Library of Congress website at www.loc.gov.
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