Attorney at Law

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a legal term referring to the ownership of certain types of intellectual property. Simply put, copyright can be defined as the right to copy. Only the original creator of the work as well as anyone with authorization is allowed to reproduce that work. Works must be original and fixed in a tangible form in order to qualify for copyright. Moreover, copyright laws defend the tangible form of the work only, not the idea behind it. Books, videos, musical compositions, photographs, and paintings are some of the most common types of intellectual property guarded by copyright law.

According to United States intellectual property laws, work created after January 1, 1978, is protected by copyright for the life of the creator plus an additional 70 years. Original work created before 1978 is protected for 28 years with the possibility of renewal.

Key Takeaways

  • Copyright is defined as legal ownership of certain works.
  • Works that are independently created and in tangible form are protected by copyright law.
  • In most cases, works are protected by copyright laws until 70 years following the death of the creator.
  • Registration is not required for copyright, although it is recommended.

Understanding Copyright

It can take a significant amount of time, effort, and money to make an original, tangible creation. Therefore, safeguarding legal rights to these independent creations is often considered essential. Fortunately, there are several intellectual property laws in place in the United States that protect works from unauthorized duplication. Copyright law guards original and fixed work.

The law considers a work original if it was created independently and without duplication. A work of this type is known as an Original Work of Authorship (OWA). Original works of authorship are typically protected by a copyright automatically, preventing them from being used or copied without permission. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that copyright laws do not protect all forms of original work. As stated, copyrighted work must be in a tangible form. In other words, concepts, theories, and ideas cannot be copyrighted.

Registering Copyright

Generally, copyright is automatically granted to creators who meet the law's requirements.
Registration of a copyright is not required, but it is highly recommended. Copyright owners often choose to register their work to gain legal advantage, since it establishes a public record of copyright ownership. Further, registration is necessary in order to press charges for copyright infringement and it allows creators to claim compensation for infringement without needing to prove damages. Copyright registration applications can be completed online or via mail in paper form.

Bottom Line

Although copyright laws grant automatic protection, it is highly advised to consider registering your creation with the United States Copyright Office. This can give you a strong upper hand in the unfortunate event of a copyright infringement issue.

If you are interested in registering your copyright or want to learn more about your rights as a copyright owner, reach out to one of our top intellectual property attorneys.

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Featured Intellectual Property Lawyers

Law Office of Edwin Burnett

36 years in practice
Copyright, Intellectual Property
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Weaver Robinson Law Firm, PLLC

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The Law Offices of Scott E. Schutzman

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Law Office of Edwin Burnett

36 years in practice
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Aldrich & Brunot, LLC

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Horn Wright, LLP

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