What is a Copyright?

What is a Copyright?

what is copyrightAs a business owner you have definitely heard the term copyright, but do you know what it really is?

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to authors of original works of authorship. Works that can be protected by copyright are: literary works; musical works including words; dramatic works including accompanying music; pantomimes and choreographic works; pictorial, graphic and sculpture works; motion pictures and other audiovisual works, sound recordings; architectural works and computer software.

Some things are not eligible for copyright protection. They include: works that have not been fixed in tangible form, titles, names, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols or designs, ornamentation, coloring or lettering, lists of ingredients, ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, devices, any information that is common property such as a calendar or tables taken from public documents.

Benefits Of Copyright

The Copyright Act gives owners of copyright the exclusive right to do and authorize others to do the following: reproduce the work in copies; make derivatives of the work such as a condensation of a book; distribute copies of the work; perform the copyrighted work publicly such as a play or piece of music; display the copyrighted work publicly such as a picture or sculpture.

Who Can Obtain A Copyright?

Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can claim copyright. In the case of an employee working for “hire” the employer is consider the author. Thus a newspaper would be the author and copyright owner of an article written by a reporter and published in the paper.

How to Secure A Copyright

Copyright is secured immediately and automatically when a work is created. No publication or registration or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright. However, publication is useful and important because it can bear the notice of copyright, the year of publication, and it informs the public that the work is protected by copyright. Publication is the distribution of copies to the public by sale, rental, lease, lending or other transfer of ownership. When a work is published 2 copies must be deposited with the Library of Congress within three months of publication.

Even if the work is not published, registration with the Copyright Office is useful to establish the date and owner of the copyright and a certificate of registration. Registration is voluntary. If a work is registered at the time of infringement, the copyright owner is entitled to statutory damages and attorney fees.

Application materials including application forms can be obtained from Register of Copyrights, Copyright Office, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20559. There is a filing fee which is adjusted every five years. The new basic registration fee is $35.

If you apply for copyright registration, you will not receive an acknowledgment that your application has been received (the Copyright Office receives more than 600,000 applications annually), but you can expect:

  •  A letter or a telephone call from a Copyright Office staff member if further information is needed or
  •  A certificate of registration indicating that the work has been registered, or if the application cannot be accepted, a letter explaining why it has been rejected.

Check with the library for latest fee schedule and forms. The website is www.copyright.gov. A lawyer is not required to apply for a copyright.

Notice of Copyright

The use of copyright notice is recommended because it informs the public that the material is copyrighted, identifies the copyright owner and the date of copyright. The notice consists of three elements: © or the word “Copyright” or the abbreviation or “Copr.”; the date of first publication and the name of the owner of the copyright. Example: © 1994 SCOREBOARD. For sound recordings the letter P in a circle is used instead of ©.

For How Long Is A Copyright Good?

A work that was created (fixed in tangible form for the first time) on or after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its creation and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years after the author’s death. If the work is made for “hire” such as a newspaper the duration of the copyright is 75 years.

Property Rights

A copyright is personal property and subject to state laws dealing with personal property. Because it is personal property it can be bequeathed in a will or transferred as with any other piece of personal property.

Other Considerations

There are times when you may desire a combination of copyright, patent and trademark protection for your work. You should consult an attorney to determine what forms of intellectual property protection are best suited to your needs.


US Copyright Office Website, www.copyright.gov Copyright Basics, Copyright web site Title 17 U. S. Code
Code of Federal Regulations (37 CFR Part 201 )


Leave a Comment

Name *