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Copyright Holder Rights

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The U.S. Copyright Act

A number of specific rights are granted by the Copyright Act. These rights can be limited and there are exceptions that apply. These rights are conferred as soon as one has a copyright.

  • The Right of Reproduction - A copyright holder has the right to reproduce or copy the protected work. This right is exclusive, meaning only the copyright holder has it. This right is also one of the most important rights granted by the Copyright Act.
  • The Right of Distribution - A copyright holder has the right to sell the protected work to the public or distribute it in other ways including renting, leasing, or lending. This right is limited by the First Sale Doctrine, which says that after the first sale or distribution of a copy of the protected work, the copyright holder no longer has control over the distribution of that copy. For example, if you buy a copy of a book in a store, you can sell it without the copyright holder's permission. There are limitations on the First Sale Doctrine.
  • The Right to Create Adaptations - The Copyright Act entitles a copyright holder to create "derivative works". "Derivative works" are new works that are based on the protected one. One of the most common examples is turning a book into a movie: the movie is a derivative work of the book and the copyright holder has the exclusive right to making the movie.
  • The Performance and Display Rights - A copyright holder can control public performances or displays of a protected work. A work is performed in public when it is performed in a place that is open to the public or where more than just the usual family and family friends are present. Also, these rights are limited to certain types of works. For example, the performance right includes literary, musical, and audio visual works while the display right also includes pictorial and graphical works.

Other Rights of the Copyright Holder

  • If you have a copyright, you can transfer any or all of your rights to another person. If you transfer all of your rights, this is usually called an assignment. If you only transfer some of your rights, this is usually called a license.
  • As a copyright holder, you also have the right to register your copyright with the Copyright Office.
  • You can also bring suit to ensure the protection of your copyright. What type of suit you can bring and the damages you could possibly recover will depend on whether or not you have registered your copyright.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

While some of your copyright rights are easier to exercise (such as reproduction and distribution), exercising other rights can be much more complicated. If you would like to license your copyrighted work, register your copyright, or believe someone has infringed your copyright, an experienced intellectual property lawyer can help you get the results you are looking for.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 03-19-2018 09:17 PM PDT

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