Copyright Law

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.


Copyright Law Articles

  • How Virtual Interior Designers Tackle 6 E-Design Challenges With Their Service Agreements
    Providing e-design services offers interior designers numerous advantages, including increased accessibility to clients and the ability to work remotely. However, like any service conducted primarily online, e-design comes with its own set of challenges. In this article, we go over some of the biggest issues interior designers face when providing e-design services and what their E-Design Services Agreements can say to help mitigate the potential for resulting disputes.
  • Florida Trademark Claims and How to Combat Cybersquatting or Cyberpiracy
    Cybersquatting or cyberpiracy is when someone registers a domain containing your name or that of your business and does it to deprive you of the ability to register that domain. There are several ways to deal with this hijacking from contacting the domain registrant and notifying search engines to alerting the FTC and FCC in the federal government and filing a lawsuit. But a more proactive approach is to purchase domains and register trademarks for your business.
  • Is My Idea Protectable? Well, It Depends . . .
    A Non-Disclosure Agreement is crucial when it comes to protecting your idea. Our latest blog post by our Associate Attorney, Dominique Williams emphasizes the power of NDA and the wide array of ideas that can be safeguarded. Stay informed and protect your creative works with the help of our experienced attorneys. Read the full article on our website and contact us to learn more about how we can assist you with your intellectual property needs.
  • Digital Millennium Copyright Act
    Understanding copyright infringement laws can be challenging. So, we put together an informational guide detailing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA). With this guide, hopefully you’ll have a better understanding of copyright infringement and what you can do if someone has infringed your copyright. If you have more questions about copyright infringement or need help addressing other business law issues, contact a business law attorney from Sul Lee Law Firm. Call us today to schedule a consultation.
  • Copyright Ownership in the Age of Generative AI
    Copyright ownership is a complex issue, particularly in the age of generative AI. Our latest blog post by Associate Attorney, Dominique Williams explores this topic in-depth and offers insights into how businesses and creators can navigate the challenges of copyright ownership in the digital age. Stay informed and protect your creative works with the help of our experienced attorneys. Read the full article on our website and contact us to learn more about how we can assist you with your intellectual property needs.
  • What to Do After Filing Your Trademark Application
    If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: Register your business trademark before some else does. There’s a reason why going to the lengths to register your trademark is so important. However, your job isn’t finished just because you received the United States Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) acknowledgement of filing. There are several things you’ll need to do and be aware of in terms of maintaining the status and efficacy of your trademark—which is precisely what we’ll be discussing in this article.
  • What Does a Registered Trademark Protect?
    Trademarks exist all around us, whether they're logos, symbols, colors, jingles, or taglines. Registered trademarks are the very things that represent and protect a brand's identity within the marketplace. You probably already have several slogans and catchphrases memorized that you didn't even realize were trademarked. Of course, It's because they were successfully registered that they've been able to become something that stays with people seemingly forever. However, not everything a business comes up with will be trademark-worthy. In this article, we're going to dive into everything that a registered trademark protects and doesn't protect, as well as how to successfully register the trickiest of trademark specimens: Slogans and phrases.
  • Is My Trademark Available for Registration?
    Any business lawyer may strongly advise you to register your business’s trademark as early as the brand’s use. Of course, knowing that this is a critical step in safeguarding your brand identity, intellectual property, and business is the easy part. The challenging part is conducting the proper research to ensure that your mark is available. However, the longer you go without establishing your brand and potentially registering your trademark, the more likely your logo—or something confusingly similar—will pop up in one or more trademarking databases. In this article, we will discuss the importance of registering your trademark and how to make sure that your trademark is available for registration.
  • What Is An Intent-To-Use Trademark Application?
    Did you know that you don’t necessarily have to wait for trademark registration to gain a level of protection for your brand’s mark? You can put the wheels in motion to obtain trademark protection by filing an Intent-to-Use application for your intended trademark. It works even if you’re not ready to use the trademark just yet. In this article, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about Intent-to-Use trademark applications, including how they work and how they can benefit your business.
  • What Are Specimens for Trademark Applications?
    So, you’re thinking about getting started on a trademark application for your business. Congrats!—this is the first step in safeguarding your products or services and preventing others from copying your brand and turning a profit by ripping you off. While the trademark registration process is relatively straightforward, many new business owners tend to get their trademarks denied by submitting the wrong type of trademark specimen. In this article, we’re going to dive into everything you need to know about trademark specimens, so you can submit your application with ease. Read on to learn more.
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