Copyright laws are in place to protect any original form of expression, such as works of music, art, film, literature, software programs, or architecture. Title 17 of the United States code protects any type of creative, original work that is fixed and created in tangible form. Individuals may use canvas, video tape, audio tape or paper to create their copyrighted works. While the owner has the right to distribute their works in any way they see fit, there may be a violation if another individual seeks to profit from a copyrighted work.
Who Owns a Copyright?
Any individual or group of individuals who created a piece of work are considered the copyright owners. Ownership may change in the following situations:
If any of these situations apply to you, you may not be eligible to hold the copyright for your original work. Once a piece is sold, the new owner has the right to benefit from the work.
If I Own a Copyright, How Long Will It Last?
Once an original work is created in a tangible form, copyright protection begins. As new laws were put into place in the late 1970s, anything published after 1977 receives protection in the following situations:
Original works are protected under federal law, giving the original owner the right to make money off them and publish them however they see fit.
What’s the Process to Register a Piece of My Work?
A copyright is fairly easy to obtain through the United States Copyright Office, either online or through the mail. Basic copyright claims may include visual arts works, sound recordings, literary works, single serials and performing arts works.
When Should I Register an Original Piece of Work?
While it’s not always necessary to register an original piece of work immediately, your legal options are more secure when a copyright is obtained quickly. The Copyright Act allows for an owner to receive statutory damages of up to $150,000 if the published work is registered before infringement.
Anything published before March 1 of 1989 is not protected unless a valid copyright notice was received. Anything after that does not require a copyright for protection, although legal options are more accessible if the copyright was obtained. Basically, it’s much easier to prove your work has been copied and you have been damaged by it if you have a copyright on the work. Valid copyrights include the date of publication, the copyright symbol, the word copyright and who owns or authored the work.
What Legal Rights do I Have if Someone Infringes On My Copyright?
If your copyrighted work has been infringed upon, you have the right to pursue a lawsuit in federal court against the infringer. If your lawsuit is successful, you may be given monetary damages and compensation for attorney fees, and the infringer may receive an injunction or restraining order to stop publication of the copyrighted work.
Legal defenses for infringers are created around the following scenarios:
•Innocent infringer who was unaware of the copyright on the work
International treaties also protect copyrighted works from being published around the world by infringers. Authors are given an automatic copyright for 50 years after their lifespan under these treaties.
Your Original Work Protected
Filing a copyright to protect your work ensures that anything you publish or create is yours alone, and you get credit for your original ideas. Others who benefit from your published works may be under violation of the law.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.