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Copyright Definition

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What Is a Copyright?

A copyright is a set of legal rights that allows the copyright holder certain privileges regarding a created work. For instance, the holder of a copyright for protected material may have the exclusive rights to:

  • Sell the copyrighted material
  • Reproduce the work
  • Distribute and market the copyrighted material to public consumers
  • Make public performances of the copyrighted material for profit

Copyright protections apply to a very wide range of works and materials, including:

  • Written material, like books, essays, novels, etc.
  • Written or recorded music
  • Electronic-related material like software programs and codes, video material, and apps
  • Physical art like sculptures
  • Performable art such as dramas, plays, skits, dances, etc.

What Is Copyright Infringement?

Copyright infringement occurs when one person violates the exclusive rights of the copyright holder. For instance, the only of the copyright owner of a play may perform the play in public places for profit. If another person or company attempts to perform the play in public for profit, they might be held liable for infringement. Another example is when a person sells copyrighted songs without permission.

Punishment for infringement can include civil charges for lost profits, and other consequences such as confiscation of the unauthorized material. Federal charges can also apply in some infringement cases, making it a very serious offense.

How Are Copyrights Obtained?

In some instances a person owns a copyright by the simple virtue of creating the work. However, in order to be sure of their rights, the owner will usually want to register their copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. This ensures that there is a valid written record of the person’s rights.

In other cases, a copyright may be verified through other means. For instance, with electronic media, the copyright date and time of a work can be traceable through the electronic stamp created when the work is submitted on the internet.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Copyright Claim?

You may wish to hire an intellectual property lawyer if you need help obtaining, defending, or contesting copyright issues. Your attorney can advise you on the laws in your area, and can help determine what your rights are in the situation. Also, if you need to file a lawsuit for damages, your attorney can help you file a claim, and can represent you during the court meetings.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 05-22-2018 10:37 PM PDT

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