Copyright and Copyright Protection FAQs
For answers to questions about copyright and copyright protection, please select one of the links below:
The Copyright Act of 1976 protects creative expression: literary, dramatic, and musical works; pantomimes and dance; pictorial, graphic and sculptural works; audio-visual works; sound recordings; and architectural works. Essentially, any original "expression" is eligible for copyright protection as soon as it is fixed in a tangible form.
Almost any original expression that is fixed in a tangible form is protected as soon as it is expressed. A tangible form includes the electronic medium: a graphic file created in any graphics editing software program is protected as soon as the file is saved to disk. A web page is protected as soon as you stop typing and save it as a .html file. As you can see, most of the items that you are likely to encounter on the Internet are eligible for copyright protection, including the text of web pages, contents of email and Usenet messages, sound files, graphics files and so on.
Although no longer necessary, notice on copyrighted material avoids any uncertainty that it is copyrighted. The four elements of Notice are the copyright symbol, the term "Copyright", the year of copyright, the name of the copyright holder, and the phrase "All Rights Reserved".
Copyright © David M. Adler, Esq.
All Rights Reserved
However, items like Ideas, Facts, Titles, Names, Short phrases, and Blank forms are not eligible for copyright protection.
Duration of the protection afforded by copyright depends in large part on when the work in question was created. Whether the work was created before or after January 1, 1978 could have substantial affect on the life-span of the copyright.
If published before 1978, the copyright expires 75 years from the date of publication (if the copyright was renewed). If published after 1978, the copyright will expire on December 31, 2002. If published between 1978 and the present and the copyright is owned by an individual the copyright will last for the life of the author, plus an additional 50 years. If published between 1978 and the present and the copyright owned by employer of author, the copyright will last 75 years from the date of publication, or 100 years from the date of creation, whichever occurs first.
Obviously one may use any original material one creates: graphics, audio, text, or video. One may also license material to use on web pages or in catalogs. If an item like a picture was created by someone else and the copyright has not expired, then permission must be sought for the right to use that item from the copyright owner. Essentially, when one buys a clipart CD one is also buying a license. A license will spell out how the image may be used, how much it would cost to use the image, and any other conditions and restrictions.
One may also use works deemed in the "Public Domain". The "Public Domain" contains all works that for whatever reason are not protected by copyright. As such, they are free for all to use without permission. Works in the Public Domain include characteristics such as: a lost copyright, an expired copyright, owned or authored by the federal government, specifically granted to public domain, or just non-copyrightable.
As described earlier, a work is copyrighted as soon as it is created, but there are some advantages to registering your work with the Copyright Office. In order to sue for infringement of a work, with some exceptions, a work must be registered with the Copyright Office. However, one may register after the infringement occurs, as long as it's before filing the lawsuit.
To register a copyright, file the appropriate form with the U.S. Copyright Office, including the payment for registration costs ($30).
We look forward to the opportunity to discuss any questions you may have regarding the range of business, technology and intellectual property services we offer. Please feel free to call us at (866) 734-2568 should you have any questions.