A copyright is a form of legal protection provided by the federal government to the creators of original works, such as literature, movies, music, art, photographs, software and performances. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works of art, and it is not necessary to register your work with the government in order to be protected under copyright laws. If you are considering copyrighting a work, read the following information to learn more about the legal aspects of copyrights.
Copyrights provide creators and authors with a plethora of privileges. They give creators the sole power to:
- Reproduce the work
- Perform the work in public
- Display the copyrighted material in a public forum
- Distribute the work or sell the work to another party
- Prepare derivative works based off of the original work
It is important to note that copyright laws only cover the form in which the idea or information is expressed. It does not cover an actual idea, concept, fact, or technique within the original material.
Should You Copyright Your Work?
There are many legitimate reasons to consider copyrighting your works. First of all, if another person or entity attempts to pass off your work as their own, you won’t the right to legal recourse without a copyright. If you do take the time to copyright your works, you will be entitled to monetary compensation if you take the infringer to court. You will be entitled to compensation even if you’re unable to prove how much money you lost due to the infringer’s actions. Your legal costs will usually be zero because the infringer will be required to pay your lawyer also.
In general, only the author or creator of a work can claim a copyright. Once the work is completed in fixed form, the copyright will belong to the author. If there are multiple authors or creators, they can all claim the copyright unless there is an agreement stating otherwise. Fixed form refers to the storage method that you use for your work. For example, writing a poem down on paper or saving a computer program on a drive is storing it in fixed form.
Work Made for Hire
Periodically, employers may ask their employees to create works for business purposes. In these cases, the copyright of the work will belong to the employer, not the employee. This copyright law is known as “work made for hire,” and it’s applied in situations where the creation of works is within the scope of an employee’s work contract. In cases of temporary employees or independent contractors, the statute can be applied if the work is:
- Part of a motion picture or screenplay
- Part of a more extensive literary work (anthology, magazine article, etc.)
- A translation
- Used for instructional purposes
- A map or atlas
- A test or testing material
- A supplementary work such as a forward, bibliography or appendix
- A compilation
If you are an independent contractor and you wish to retain the rights to your work or material, you should have your employer sign an agreement before you begin working.
If your work is a part of a collective work, such as a magazine or anthology, the authors of each independent work will hold a distribution copyright. This means that the authors will have the ability to distribute the work to as many different individuals or organizations as they please. A separate copyright for the collective work itself may also be held by the compiler of the work since choosing the works requires a high degree of creativity.
The Benefits of Copyrighting
Simply put, there are many different aspects of copyrighting. If you are the producer of original work, it is strongly recommended that you copyright your material as soon as possible, especially if the work is part of your business. This will allow you to reap all of the financial, emotional and professional benefits of being a creator.
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.