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.
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.
Know Your Rights!
- Edit article Fair Use of Copyrighted Works
- Every Book Ever Written Soon to be Searchable on the Internet Thanks to Fair Use Doctrine
- Legal Concerns When Registering Domain Names
- Legal Considerations for Website Terms of Service
- Video Games and the Law
- What is a Copyright and How Do I Get One?
- What is Plagiarism?
Recent Articles About Copyright Law
- Sharing Photographs: Excessive Copyright DemandsTechnological advancements in social media sites and website development tools have allowed users to easily share and discuss articles and photographs across the globe. In parallel with these technological developments, various organizations have sprung up that claim to represent owners of these shared photographs. These organizations send a letter and make an excessive copyright demand. Users must understand their rights before deciding whether to succumb to such excessive demands.
- Can I Have Google Content Removed?As many people know, once information is on the Internet, it can stay there forever. However, some individuals have a legitimate interest in having certain information removed from the Internet, so they may pursue doing this through Google, the largest search engine at the time of publication. There is a certain process that individuals must usually follow in order to effectuate this, and Google does not guarantee that all unfavorable information will be removed.
- Intellectual Property: 3 Legal Tools to Help You Protect Your Business IdeaIf the success of your small business rests with your intellectual property, then you should be very interested in how you can protect it. Filing for a patent can be costly and time-consuming; you may not be able to wait that long, especially if you need to share your idea with others for it to come to fruition.
- When Is It Legal to Download Music, Movies, or Software Via Torrents on the Internet?Since the rise of the Internet, the illegal sharing of music, movies, and software have been an ongoing concern. Still, not every peer-to-peer network for sharing various forms of media is illegal, and some companies have even found it desirable to begin distributing materials in this fashion. So, when is it legal to download music, movies, or software via torrents on the Internet?
- Intellectual Property Law: Understanding the BasicsIntellectual property law is an intimidating subject for many business owners. Sure, you’ve heard horror stories about intellectual property being stolen… but that would never happen to you, right? Actually, if you’re in business long enough, there’s a very good chance that your ideas will be stolen. And if you don’t protect yourself, the consequences could be catastrophic.
- Trademark Law and Copyright Law - Their Use by CelebritiesBecause of the value of even the simplest phrase, celebrities today are utilizing copyright and trademark law to protect their intellectual rights in instances rarely before noticed. It is Copyright and Trademark Law which requires their lawyers to send cease and desist letters to unsuspecting entrepreneurs. A balance needs to be restored so celebrities can proceed against large scale pirates even if they don’t aggressively seek to protect their intellectual property rights in every case.
- Understanding Trademark InfringementTrademark infringement can be a serious issue, especially if you run a small business that depends on various distribution channels. Do you understand how the laws could affect you?
- Court Rules Copyright Ownership Can Be Transferred Using Electronic SignatureIn a matter of first impression, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that an electronic signature can create a legally binding agreement to transfer copyright ownership. The decision relied on the federal E-Sign Act of 2000, which clarified that contracts cannot be invalidated simply because the signature is in electronic form.
- Entertainment Industry Study Finds Online Piracy GrowingOnline copyright infringement shows no signs of slowing down, according to a new study commissioned by NBCUniversal and prepared by NetNames. Among the study’s findings — 432 million unique Internet users explicitly sought infringing content during just one month in 2013.
- Two Years Later: Where Does the America Invents Act Stand?Congress passed the America Invents Act (AIA) roughly two years ago. However, many of the law’s provisions only became effective on March 16, 2013.
- All Intellectual Property Law Articles
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.