Find Comprehensive Information for US and International Copyright Law
U.S. Copyright law is a subset of Intellectual Property law. It provides protection to the creators of specific work product for that work product, established by the U.S. Constitution in Article 1, Section 8. It also allows the copyright owner to copy his/her work as he desires and to legally prohibit others from doing so, and also from displaying, using, distributing, performing and/or licensing his/her work product for a specific period of time. Copyright law also protects derivatives of a copyrighted work, unless it falls under the “fair use” doctrine.
Fair use refers to the public’s right to freely use certain copyrighted material without fear of reprisal. The factors used to define “fair use” are specified in copyright law, although their interpretation is very subjective. Generally speaking, fair use allows individuals to reproduce copyrighted material only for narrow and specific purposes which include criticizing or critiquing; commentary and news reporting; research and scholarship; nonprofit educational uses; and ridiculing or satirizing as in a parody of a copyrighted work.
In addition, there exists another exception, in “work for hire” product. This refers to original work created by an individual working for another entity and therefore this individual’s work product actually belongs to the entity that hired the worker and that entity would then own the copyright, instead of the individual who actually created the work product.
The first Copyright Act was enacted under the Constitution to protect the “writings” of authors. But over time copyright protection has expanded to include other types of creative, original works represented in tangible formats other than writing. Types of work product protected by copyright law include, but are not limited to the following: literary works, such as books, manuscripts, magazines, articles, and poetry; dramatic works like plays with any accompanying music, movie scripts, screenplays, written or recorded pantomime performance art and choreography; musical works like songs, music, lyrics, compositions, musical scores, and sound recordings; visual artistic works like maps, drawings, sketches, paintings, photographs, sculpture, art reproductions and films; audiovisual work like motion pictures, television shows and cartoons; architectural work like designs, technical drawings and blueprints; and computer software programs.
To qualify for copyright protection the work must have been represented at one time in some sort of tangible form, although not indefinitely. Additionally, it does not have to be unique or inventive, and can even resemble other works already in existence, but it must be original work that was not copied directly from any other source, and created independently by the author. Lastly, some measure of creative effort must have been expended to create the work. For example, someone’s grocery list where the items are simply listed with no embellishments displays no creative effort at all and would not be copyright protected.
Any eligible work does not have to be published to fall under copyright protection. As soon as the original work has been rendered in some sort of tangible form, it qualifies. Many categories of material that are not eligible for copyright protection may instead be suitable for protection under trademark, trade secret or patent laws. However, works composed completely out of material that has become part of the “public domain” is considered common or community property; it has no original creation and is not suitable for any type of protection. These include things like weight charts, height charts, standardized calendars, various photographs, magazine articles, works produced by the U.S. government and the like. Additionally, all works published in the U.S. before 1923 are now considered public domain.
Copyright HG.org The emergence and saturation of internet use throughout the world has had a distinct effect on copyright law. Time and again copyright protection has been afforded to internet content. Digital Rights Management (DRM) is at the forefront of this new frontier. DRM refers to the diverse aggressive measures instituted to control internet content by assorted means, including locking access via new markup language, encryption features, and plug-ins; use of an informal honor system where entities, such as the Copyright Clearance Center, provide permissions and payments; and good old-fashioned prosecution. Additionally, the Copyright Office has developed the “Copyright Office Electronic Registration, Recordation and Deposit System” (CORDS), a system fashioned to electronically register copyrights online and currently instituted by the electronic copyright office (eCO).
U.S. copyright law is almost solely created and regulated by the federal government. The agency mainly responsible for this is the federal Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. Copyright protection and the applicable governing laws differ according to the time that the work was created. For specifics, see links to Copyright Acts below. Most copyrights are recognized and honored internationally in many, but not all countries via international copyright treaties and conventions.
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Recent Articles About Copyright Law
- USPTO Issues Guidance to Patent Examiner in Wake of Prometheus DecisionThe U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a memorandum to its patent examiners regarding the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. The memorandum provides preliminary guidance to the Patent Examining Corps. in light of the Court’s decision, and also indicates that further guidance will be forthcoming.
- Has Louis Vuitton Gone Too Far to Protect Its Trademark?The intellectual property world is buzzing about the trademark dispute brewing between luxury brand Louis Vuitton and University of Pennsylvania Law School. Louis Vuitton recently sent a strongly worded cease and desist letter demanding that the school remove posters advertising the Pennsylvania Intellectual Property Group’s (PIRG) annual symposium on fashion law because the posters "misappropriated and modified" Vuitton's trademarked monogram design.
- U.S. Gymnasts Are Not the First “Fab Five”If the U.S. women’s Olympic team wants to capitalize on their gold medal win, they may need to hire an experienced trademark attorney. The group’s famous nickname—the Fab Five—is already trademarked by NBA player Jalen Rose.
- China Leads the World in Patent FilingChina was the world’s top patent filer for 2011, according to a new Thompson Reuters report. The significant uptick is attributed to the country’s desire to transform from a "made in China" to a "designed in China" market.
- Copyright FAQ: What Is a “Useful Article?”In a recent copyright infringement case involving Batman’s famous ride, the Batmobile, a U.S. federal judge ruled that the famous car was protected under the Copyright Act because it possessed non-functional artistic elements that could be separated from the utilitarian aspect of the automobile.
- Patent FAQ: Is My Invention Patentable?A patent is a valuable property right because it excludes others from “making, using, offering for sale, or selling your invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a certain period of time. However, before embarking on the patent process, the first step is determine if your invention can indeed be patented.
- Rock Legend Seeks Trademark for New Audio FormatWhat Does Neil Young Have Against MP3s? Legendary rocker Neil Young reportedly does not like how his songs currently sound on his iPod. To remedy the problem, he is working on a new, high-resolution audio format to replace MP3s, as evidenced by several trademarks applications recently filed on his behalf.
- Can You Patent a Tattoo? Nokia Says YesPatents and patent applications are often the first indicators that a new technology or product is on the horizon. This may be the case with Nokia’s recent patent application for a vibrating tattoo.
- Will EU Ruling on Copyright Protection for Software Impact U.S. Litigation?The Court of Justice of the European Union recently confirmed that computer functions are not eligible for copyright protection. While the decision is clearly a win for the software industry and its reliance on reverse engineering, its impact on U.S. copyright litigation remains to be seen.
- Trademark FAQ: What Is Dilution?As we mentioned last week, trademark owners can protect their intellectual property by bringing a trademark infringement action. This post highlights another valuable legal tool—an action for trademark dilution.
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Copyright Law - US
- ABA - Intellectual Property Law Section - Copyrights
The ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law is the largest intellectual property organization in the world and the oldest substantive Section of the ABA. Since 1894, we have advanced the development and improvement of intellectual property laws and their fair and just administration.
- Copyright Act
The U.S. Copyright Act is found in Title 17 of the U.S. Code and contains the federal statutes governing copyright law in the United States. This index contains links to each of the sections of the Copyright Act found in Title 17. The version of the Copyright Act found in BitLaw was updated in November 2005.
- Copyright Law - Wikipedia
Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time, with the intention of enabling the creator of intellectual wealth (e.g. the photographer of a photograph or the author of a book) to get compensated for their work and be able to financially support themselves.
- United States Copyright Law
Copyright law in the U.S. is governed by federal statute, namely the Copyright Act of 1976. The Copyright Act prevents the unauthorized copying of a work of authorship.
- United States Copyright Office
The Copyright Office is an office of record, a place where claims to copyright are registered and where documents relating to copyright may be recorded when the requirements of the copyright law are met.