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A Copyright Primer

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Copyright Basics

Copyright protection is available for original works capable of being created in a fixed form. For example, putting pencil to paper and creating an original writing gives rise to a copyright in that writing. As another example, creating an original software program gives rise to copyright rights in that software.

If you want to protect any literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, or other intellectual work, such as software, then you should consider copyright protection.

A copyright registration certificate may serve as proof of ownership of a copyright and is necessary to protect copyrighted works in court. Obtaining a copyright certificate also enables certain important

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." This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.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 work in copies or phonorecords;
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
  • To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  • To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
  • To display the 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.

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 law 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
    • a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
    • a translation
    • a supplementary work
    • a compilation
    • an instructional text
    • a test
    • answer material for a test
    • 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.

As of the date of this blog entry many other basic facts about copyright are available at http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html.

copyright 2007 Citadel Patent Law


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