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
- Is That a Patent, Trademark or Copyright?If you wouldn’t know a patent if one bit you , you are not alone. Most of the public doesn’t know the difference, and there are lawyers who are uncertain of the differences. Today, though, you are lucky enough to have this article in front of you to learn the difference. Bear in mind, however, this is just an overview. If you want to know more, refer to the footnotes.
- Copyright Protection for Architectural Works & Other DesignsWhat Does Copyright Protect? Copyright law protects original works that are fixed in a “tangible medium of expression.”
- Defenses to Allegations of Copyright InfringementThere are numerous defenses available to a copyright infringement defendant.
- Elements of a Copyright Infringement ClaimA copyright infringement action requires a plaintiff to prove (1) ownership of a valid copyright, and (2) actionable copying by the defendant of constituent elements of the work that are original.
- What is Copyright Infringement?Copyright infringement can cost a business owner or the creator of a copyrighted work dearly. Not only does the owner or creator of the work now have to contend with attempting to sell or use his or her work in a marketplace that also contains the unauthorized reproduction, but the owner or creator is at a distinct disadvantage in that he or she has invested the time and resources into creating the copyrighted work and needs to recoup these costs whereas the competitor is not in such a position.
- Band Agreements, Band Entities, Band Trademarks and CopyrightsIn order to avoid disputes later, a band needs a band agreement which states how the band will divide their profits and which provides how decisions shall be made, how departing band members will be paid and the rights to use the band name after a break up or a band member departs. With the advice of a music lawyer, the right business entity can be chosen, and a music attorney in California can be utilized to obtain copyrights, and trademarks for the band name.
- Literary Agency and Publishing Contracts: What Attorneys and Writers Need to KnowA writer who signs a literary agency agreement or a book publishing contract without having it reviewed and negotiated by a literary rights or publishing attorney risks not having any idea how the terms contained in a ten to thirty page publishing contract can harm them. Scams abound in the publishing world and writers need to be aware before they sign a contract that obligates them to pay to have their book published and to purchase their own books.
- The Importance of Intellectual Property Protection in FashionMore than many other industries, fashion thrives on the ideas, concepts, designs, and other creative contributions of its personnel.
- You Can Stop Trademark InfringementYou have gone through the painstaking process of starting a business, developing a brand for your business, namely, your business’ trademark, invested significant time and resources into this development, and suddenly you discover another business is using your exact trademark or a similar one. What can you do?
- What Is Fashion Law?While the worlds of law and fashion may seem as far apart as one can imagine, legal matters are inseparable from any career or aspirations in the fashion industry. To understand why fashion law is so important, one must start with what it is and why it should matter to you.
- 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.