An Overview of Copyrights

Copyright laws are one form of intellectual property protections that can be enjoyed under United States law. Copyright laws give the owner of original works significant protections that can help to prevent works from being stolen or copied without permission. It is vitally important for anyone who has materials that can be copyrighted to ensure their rights are protected.

Works Covered Under Copyrights

In order to qualify for copyright protection, the work must be original. This means that a person can't copyright a work that is replicated from another source. The work must be a creative work, meaning it is something thought of in a person's mind.

Various original works can be covered under copyright laws. These include plays, music, lyrics, dance routines, books, novels, reference materials, paintings, sculptures, architecture, blueprints, poems, movies, and other similar works.

Copyright Security

Any work is automatically copyrighted when the work is created. This means when the creator puts the work on paper or into effect. A novel is copyrighted when it is written. A painting is copyrighted when it is painted. A dance routine is copyrighted when it is performed for the first time, even if that is only in a practice session. Works don't have to be registered with the Copyright Office to be copyrighted material.

People who want extra protection for their original works can register those works with the Copyright Office. Registering an original work has benefits, including providing a public record of the copyright. This is the way a person can prove ownership of an original work. When an incident of copyright infringement occurs, the copyright must be registered prior to filing a lawsuit for copyright infringement.

Copyright Protections

The owner of a copyright can stipulate how the original work is used. The owner can determine who, when, and how the work can be reproduced, performed publicly, displayed publicly, distributed, or used as the basis of derivative works. It is up to the copyright owner to decide if he or she wants to authorize others to use the copyrighted work. If the copyright owner passes away, the heirs or beneficiaries of the copyright owner hold the copyright in the place of the person who passed away.

Limitations of Copyright Protection

There are some limitations to copyright protections. While a copyright protects a specific work, it doesn't protect the techniques, facts, or concepts. This means that just because a person writes a novel about zombies doesn't mean that nobody else can write about zombies. Instead, it means that if the zombie novel characters were Xavier, Zulu, and Omni, other people who write about zombies can't copy Xavier, Zulu, and Omni as characters in name or likeness.

Copyright laws can be complex. Writers, authors, musicians, painters, artists, architects, and others who produce creative works should learn how to protect their works from copyright infringement. When infringement is suspected or if more information is needed about copyright infringement, contacting an attorney with experience in intellectual property law is advisable.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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