WHAT A COPYRIGHT IS
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United
States (title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of “original
works of authorship” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is
available to both published and unpublished works. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of
copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
To reproduce the copyrighted work in copies
To prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
To distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or
by rental, lease, or lending;
To perform the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works,
pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
To display the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works,
pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other
audiovisual work; and
In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.
In addition, certain authors of works of visual art have the rights of
attribution and integrity as described in section 106A of the
1976 Copyright Act. For further information, request Circular 40, “Copyright Registration for Works of the Visual Arts.”
It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the
copyright code to the owner of copyright. These rights,
however, are not unlimited in scope. Sections 107 through 120 of the 1976 Copyright Act establish limitations on these rights.
In some cases, these limitations are specified exemptions from copyright liability. One major limitation is the doctrine of “fair
use,” which is given a statutory basis in section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act. In other instances, the limitation takes the form
of a “compulsory license” under which certain limited uses of copyrighted works are permitted upon payment of specified
royalties and compliance with statutory conditions. For further information about the limitations of any of these rights, consult the
copyright code or write to the Copyright Office.
WHO CAN CLAIM COPYRIGHT
Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed
form. The copyright in the work of authorship
immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights through
the author can rightfully claim copyright.
In the case of works made for hire, the employer and not the employee
is considered to be the author. Section 101 of the
copyright statute defines a “work made for hire” as:
(1) a work prepared by an employee within the
scope of his or her employment; or
(2) a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture
or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test,
as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the
work shall be considered a work made for hire….
The authors of a joint work are co-owners of the copyright in the work, unless there is an agreement to the contrary.
Copyright in each separate contribution to a periodical or other collective
work is distinct from copyright in the collective work
as a whole and vests initially with the author of the contribution.
Two General Principles
Mere ownership of a book, manuscript, painting,
or any other copy or phonorecord does not give the possessor the
copyright. The law provides that transfer of ownership of any material object that embodies a protected work does not
of itself convey any rights in the copyright.
Minors may claim copyright, but state laws may regulate the business dealings involving copyrights owned by minors. For
information on relevant state laws, consult an attorney.
COPYRIGHT AND NATIONAL ORIGIN OF THE WORK
Copyright protection is available for all unpublished works, regardless
of the nationality or domicile of the author. Published
works are eligible for copyright protection in the United States if any one of the following conditions is met:
On the date of first publication, one or more
of the authors is a national or domiciliary of the United States or is
national, domiciliary, or sovereign authority of a foreign nation that is a party to a copyright treaty to which the United
States is also a party, or is a stateless person wherever that person may be domiciled; or
The work is first published in the United States or in a foreign nation that, on the date of first publication, is a party to the
Universal Copyright Convention; or the work comes within the scope of a Presidential proclamation; or
The work is first published on or after March 1, 1989, in a foreign nation that on the date of first publication is a party to
the Berne Convention; or, if the work is not first published in a country party to the Berne Convention, it is published (on
or after March 1,1989) within 30 days of first publication in a country that is party to the Berne Convention; or the work,
first published on or after March 1, 1989, is a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work that is incorporated in a permanent
structure located in the United States; or, if the work, first published on or after March 1, 1989, is a published
audiovisual work, all the authors are legal entities with headquarters in the United States.
The work is a foreign work that was in the public domain in the United States prior to 1996 and its copyright was
restored under the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA). Request Circular 38b, “Highlights of Copyright
Amendments Contained in the Uruguay Round Agreement Act (URAA-GATT),” for further information.
WHAT WORKS ARE PROTECTED
Copyright protects “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a
tangible form of expression. The fixation need not be
directly perceptible so long as it may be communicated with the aid of a machine or device. Copyrightable works include the
(1) literary works;
(2) musical works, including any accompanying words
(3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music
(4) pantomimes and choreographic works
(5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
(6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works
(7) sound recordings
(8) architectural works
These categories should be viewed broadly. For example, computer programs
and most “compilations” may be registered as
“literary works”; maps and architectural plans may be registered as “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.”
WHAT IS NOT PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT
Several categories of material are generally not eligible for Federal copyright protection. These include among others:
Works that have not been fixed in a tangible
form of expression, (for example, choreographic works that have not been
notated or recorded, or improvisational speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded).
Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation,
lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents.
Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a
description, explanation, or illustration.
Works consisting entirelyof information that is common property and containing no original authorship (for example:
standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents
or other common sources).
HOW TO SECURE A COPYRIGHT
Copyright Secured Automatically Upon Creation
The way in which copyright protection is secured is frequently misunderstood.
No publication or registration or other action in
the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright. (See following NOTE.) There are, however, certain definite advantages to
registration. See “Copyright Registration” on page 6..
Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work
is “created” when it is fixed in a copy or
phonorecord for the first time. “Copies” are material objects from which a work can be read or visually perceived either directly
or with the aid of a machine or device, such as books, manuscripts, sheet music, film, videotape, or microfilm. “Phonorecords”
are material objects embodying fixations of sounds (excluding, by statutory definition, motion picture soundtracks), such as
cassette tapes, CDs, or LPs. Thus, for example, a song (the “work”) can be fixed in sheet music (“copies”) or in phonograph
disks (“phonorecords”), or both.
If a work is prepared over a period of time, the part of the work that
is fixed on a particular date constitutes the created work
as of that date.
Want to know more?? Just contact the U.S. Copyright Office/ copyright basics Office on the internet