Copyright protection exist ‘in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” (17 U.S.C. § 102). Thus there are three requirements for copyright protection:
Copyright protection is available for both published and unpublished works.
Copyright protection exists from the time a work is created in fixed form. It is automatic. No registration is required, although there are important advantages of registration, as discussed below.
Copyrightable works include the following:
Several categories of material are generally not eligible for federal copyright protection. These include:
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 law defines a “work made for hire” as a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment, or a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as
Work by a nonemployee is a work made for hire only if both parties expressly agree in a signed written agreement. Thus if a nonemployee is used to create a work, it is important to get copyright ownership specified in writing; otherwise the nonemployee owns the copyright. For example, if an outside contractor is used for writing software or creating an advertisement, a written agreement is needed to transfer ownership of the copyright.
The authors of a joint work are co-owners of the copyright in the work, unless there is an agreement to the contrary. Each can license the copyright, but generally has to share with the co-owner the returns from licensing.
Mere ownership of a book, manuscript, painting, or any other copy does not give the possessor any rights in the copyright of the work. The law provides that transfer of ownership of any material object that embodies a protected work does not convey by itself any rights in the copyright.
The term of copyright for a work depends on several factors, including whether the work is published and, if so, the date of first publication. As a general rule, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first.
The owner of a copyright has the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
As a general matter, copyright infringement of a copyrighted work occurs by reproducing, distributing, performing, publicly displaying, or making the work into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner. Copyright infringement can easily be avoided—do not copy. For example, if you are a jewelry designer, do not copy a jewelry item that looks like a bee if that is a design you want to produce. Instead, create your own design based on your artistic interpretation of a real bee.
The use of a copyright notice is not required under U.S. law, although it is beneficial. Use of the notice may be important because it informs the public that the work is protected by copyright, identifies the copyright owner, and shows the year of first publication. Furthermore, in the event that a work is infringed, if a proper notice of copyright appears, then weight may not be given to a defendant’s claim of innocent infringement in mitigation of damages.
The notice for visually perceptible copies should contain the following three elements:
Example: © 2011 John Doe
The author or copyright owner may wish to place a copyright notice on any unpublished copies of an unpublished work that leave his or her control.
Example: Unpublished work © 2011 Jane Doe
Copyright registration is a legal formality intended to make a public record of the basic facts of a particular copyright. However, registration is not a condition of copyright protection. That said, even though registration is not a requirement for protection, the copyright law provides several advantages to encourage copyright owners to register their copyrights. Among these advantages are:
There is no international copyright that protects an author’s writings throughout the entire world. Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends on the national laws of that country. Most countries do offer protection to foreign works under certain conditions,
and these conditions have been greatly simplified by international copyright treaties and conventions.
Our lawyers’ prior firm was recognized as among the best law firms in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report
National Tier 1
Los Angeles Tier 1
Litigation – Intellectual Property
Litigation – Patent
Top Patent Firms 2013