Table of content

What is copyright?

What rights does copyright confer?

How long does copyright protection stay?

What are the conditions for using works not my own?

Copyright registration

What can be copyrighted

What can’t be copyrighted

Who is the Copyright Owner?

Does Copyright Extend Internationally?

Copyright is one of the intellectual property that protects original works of authorship when the author has fixed them in a tangible form. Copyright law covers many types of works, including photographs, illustrations, paintings, books, movies, architectural and musical compositions.

Copyright is originality and fixation.

What is a copyright?

Original Works

Original works are created independently by humans and have a minimal degree of creativity. Independent creation means you created it without any copying. Some things are not creative. These include titles, names, and short phrases; symbols or designs that are familiar; variations on typographic ornamentation, letters, or coloring; and lists of ingredients and contents. Copyright only protects expression. It does not protect ideas, procedures, or methods, nor systems, processes, concepts, and principles.

Fixed Works

When work is captured by an author or under his authority in a sufficiently permanent medium so that it can be perceived, communicated, or reproduced for longer than a brief time, it is considered fixed. A work is considered fixed if it is written down or recorded.

What rights does copyright confer?

Copyright law assures the owners the following exclusive rights:

  • Make copies or phonorecords.
  • Create derivative works based on the work.
  • Distribute copies and phonorecords to the public through sale or transfer of ownership, rental, lease, lending, or other means.
  • Public performance is permitted if the work is literary, musical, dramatic, or choreographic.
  • Public display of the work is permitted if it’s a literary, artistic, dramatic, or choreographic piece; a pantomime; or a pictorial or graphic work. This right also applies to individual images in a motion picture or other audiovisual works.
  • If the work is a sound record, perform the work publically using digital audio transmission.
  • Copyright gives the owner the power to authorize others to exercise these exclusive rights subject to certain limitations.

How long does copyright protection stay?

The date a work was created determines the length of copyright protection. The current law gives works that were created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection for a term of seventy years following the author’s death.

The term of the copyright for a work that is jointly created lasts seventy years from the death of the last surviving author. Copyright protection for works created for hire or anonymous or pseudonymous work is 95 years after it gets published or 120 years after creation.

What are the conditions for using works not my own?

Agreements, Exceptions, and Limitations

It is important to remember that all of us are copyright users. We are using copyright-protected works when we read, watch movies, listen to or play music, and use software or video games.

Even if you don’t own the work, you may still be able to use it. Apart from buying or licensing or any other way to obtain permission to use it,  you can use one of the Copyright Act’s exceptions and limitations or rely upon works in the public domain.

Sections 107-122 of the Copyright Act contain exceptions and limitations. These include fair use, “first sale doctrine”, reproductions by libraries or archives, some performances and displays, and broadcast programming transmissions via cable and satellite.

One can also use works that are in the public domain. Works in the public domain are those that are not protected by copyright (such as facts and discoveries) or works whose terms of protection have expired or were not able to satisfy any formalities.

All U.S. works pre-1926 are currently in the public domain as copyright protection has expired.

What is copyright registration?

Once the original work is fixed, copyright automatically exists. However, a copyright owner may take steps to increase protections. Registering for the work is the most important step. However, registration of work is not mandatory.

For U.S. workers, registration is required to enforce rights and in order to protect copyright rights through litigation. If there is a legal action, copyright owners can seek certain types of monetary damages or attorney fees. Also, timely registration gives the presumption that the information on the registration certificate is correct.

The public also gains value from copyright registration. It allows people to search for copyright ownership information and provides notice that someone has claimed copyright protection. It keeps track of the nation’s creativity.

Registering your copyright is the only way to ensure that you are fully protected from copyright infringement.

It’s done through US Copyright Office in the United States. Fill out the application and pay non-refundable fees. Then, provide the content that you wish to protect. The content will be given as a non-refundable “deposit”, which is the entirety of the work to be copyrighted. It can include all or part of your website.

All works that are included in the deposit are subject to the registered copyright. A certificate of registration will be issued by the US Copyright Office. This is a public record that shows ownership. You can then file an infringement lawsuit in court. Registration is the strongest part of the legal doctrine which defines copyright. It allows for “statutory damages.”

The Copyright Office is the only place where you can register copyright claims in the United States.

What can be copyrighted

Three elements are required to copyright an item: originality, fixation, and expression. A creative idea must be fixed in some way, such as written on paper or recorded on a tape. This expression refers to the idea that an idea cannot be copyrighted, but only the expression of an idea can. A movie can be copyrighted, but not the idea behind it. To be eligible for a copyright, the work must demonstrate originality. You can copyright a variety of things, including:

  • Literature
  • Music work
  • Dramatic work
  • Pantomime, choreographic work
  • Work that is pictorial, graphic, or sculptural
  • Motion pictures and audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural work

What can’t be copyrighted

There are, however, many things that can’t be protected by copyright. This includes work that isn’t in a tangible format or not considered original. Below are examples of items that are not eligible for a copyright:

  • Commonly known information
  • Lists of ingredients (e.g. formulas and recipes)
  • A novel idea, book, or movie?
  • Names of businesses, organizations, or groups
  • Domain names
  • A pseudonym or stage name of an individual
  • Slogans, catchphrases, and mottoes
  • Laws including cases, constitutions, and court decisions. Regulations and statutes are also included.

Who is the Copyright Owner?

While the creator retains all rights to the work, if it was performed in a “work-for-hire” setting, an agreement may exist that gives the client ownership.

Your business is entitled to a copyright if you directly employ someone and they create content for your website. Independent contractors, however, are the owners of the material they create. You should have an agreement to retain exclusive rights.

Does Copyright Extend Internationally?

While copyright is not guaranteed worldwide protection, treaties governing copyright provide protection for countries that have signed them. Canada and the United States have copyright relations.