A copyright is a privilege to stop others from using your originally authored work. Copyright regulation is almost like trademark law, which protects logos, brand names, and inventions. The object or work to be copyrighted should be an original and not a copy or reproduction of property already copyrighted.

Under the federal copyright law, copyright allows the owner to many sole privileges, such as the right to:

  • Reproduce the copyrighted work
  • Circulate copies of the copyrighted work to the public for sale
  • Perform the copyrighted work
  • Rights to produce a license that is derived from other copyright materials
  • Licensing rights to manufacture and make a product

What Is Copyright Protection?

Copyright protection refers to the lawful safeguarding of original works of authorship and is protected under Title 17 of the United States Code. Original works of authorship may include literary, artistic, musical, dramatic, and other specified intellectual works published or unpublished.

People and companies can document copyright in the Copyright Office in the Library of Congress. In recent years, a copyright notice has not been needed for work to be covered by the law, but the Copyright Act does deliver extra security for those who choose to register with the Copyright Office. If you are curious about copyright protection, contact an experienced lawyer who will guide how to ensure your work is adequately protected.

What Are the Different Types of Copyrighted Works?

Copyrights can protect endless types of creative work, such as:

  • Recorded or sheet music
  • Books and novels
  • Software codes, video games, and CD-ROMs, although these may not be protected if they have already been distributed through a “copyleft” agreement
  • Art, such as photographs, plays, dance choreography, and statues

What Is Copyright Protection?

Under federal law, you automatically get the copyright to your work once you have “fixed” your original work in a “tangible medium of expression.” You must have independently developed the work and not adapted it from something else. The work must also be put in a sufficiently permanent medium so others can reproduce, view or communicate it.

Copyright protection occurs when an author fixes a work in a tangible form without the author having to do anything. Once a type of work has copyright protection, the inventor or creator decides who can use the work and for what objectives the work can be used. Once the work is covered, no one else can use the work without the creator’s approval.

Should I Register a Copyright?

There are several reasons you should still formally document your copyright. While your work has automatic copyright protection once it fits the above characterization, you are restricted in your remedies if you do not register the copyright correctly.

For instance, copyright registration will affect:

  • Lawsuits: If you are a U.S. copyright owner, you must register your copyright before commencing an action for copyright infringement
  • Damages: You cannot obtain damages for infringement for any time before the copyright is noted
  • Evidence: The registration of copyright, in addition to some other measures, is evidence of the validity of a copyright

An owner and creator of original work can register a copyright at the U.S. Copyright Office. Usually, an owner needs to fill out a form specific to the work that the owner hopes to register and submit a fee.

What Is Copyright Infringement?

Copyright infringement ensues when a person violates the copyright holder’s exclusive rights. For example, only the copyright owner of a play may perform the play in public areas for profit. If another individual or group tries to perform the play in public for gain, they might be held responsible for the infringement. Another instance is when a person vends copyrighted songs without authorization.

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

The U.S. Copyright Act

The Copyright Act grants several specific rights. These rights can be limited, and some exceptions apply. These rights are granted as soon as one has a copyright.

  • The Right of Reproduction: A copyright holder has the freedom 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 significant rights granted by the Copyright Act.
  • The Right of Distribution: A copyright holder can sell the protected work to the public or broadcast it in other ways, including renting, leasing, or lending. This freedom is limited by the First Sale Doctrine, which states that after the first sale or distribution of a copy of the protected work, the copyright holder no longer has authority over the distribution of that copy. For instance, if you purchase a copy of a book in a store, you can sell it without the copyright holder’s permission. There are limitations to the First Sale Doctrine.
  • The Right to Create Adaptations: The Copyright Act allows a copyright holder to create “derivative works.” “Derivative works” are new works based on the protected one. One of the most typical 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 make the movie.
  • The Performance and Display Rights: A copyright holder can regulate public performances or presentations of a protected work. Work is performed in public when performed in a location that is open to the public or where more than just the usual family and family friends are attending. Furthermore, these rights are restricted to certain types of work. For instance, the performance right includes literary, musical, and audiovisual works, while the display right 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 individual. If you share all of your rights, this is usually called an assignment. If you only move some of your rights, this is generally called a license.
  • As a copyright holder, you also have the freedom to register your copyright with the Copyright Office.
  • You can also bring a suit to protect your copyright. What kind of suit you can bring and the damages you could recover will hinge on whether or not you have registered your copyright.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Intellectual property (IP) is an area of law that confines fundamental ownership rights over inventions, creative works, unique names, ideas, industrial processes, business models, and computer program code. Intellectual property protection aims to shield the works of creatives and inventors while allowing the public access to those works without the threat of theft.

Intellectual property attorneys assist their clients by designating and safeguarding intellectual capital. In practice, an IP lawyer helps clients with copyrights, patents, trademarks, licensing, franchising, trade secrets, technology transfers, and distribution issues. For intellectual property attorneys, drafting licensing agreements, performing due diligence, and negotiating IP settlements are standard practices.

If you search for an intellectual property lawyer, LegalMatch can help you find the right person for your needs. Please search our database of qualified intellectual property lawyers with the knowledge, skillset, and experience to help you defend what is rightfully yours.

While some of your copyright rights are more leisurely to exercise (such as reproduction and distribution), exercising other rights can be much more complex. Suppose you would like to license your copyrighted work, register your copyright, or think someone has infringed your copyright. In that case, an experienced copyright lawyer can help you get the results you are looking for.