A copyright is a type of protection provided by federal law to authors of intellectual works, such as literary works, drama, music or artistic works. Intellectual works can also include choreography, sculptures, movies, sound recordings and architectural designs. Some things that can’t be copyrighted are works that aren’t in a tangible fixed form (such as performances that aren’t recorded or written), slogans, titles, names, ideas, procedures, discoveries, and works that consist only of common property (such as standard calendars).
The holder of a copyright on a book, painting, play, song or other work of art is the only one who can reproduce the work, perform the work publicly, distribute or display the work. Unauthorized use of any work protected by copyright is a violation of federal law.
In order to obtain a copyright, no action with the federal Copyright Office is needed. A copyright is automatically secured when the work is created. When a work is published, the author may choose to place a notice of copyright on the work to notify the public that the work is copyrighted. The notice varies among art forms, however, it usually includes the symbol ©, the year of publication of the work and the name of the owner of the work.
Many people also wish to register their copyrights with the Copyright Office. Although registration is not required in order to be protected by a copyright, registration has several advantages. Most importantly, registration establishes a public record of the copyright. Registration is necessary before a copyright infringement suit can be filed. If a copyright is registered and it is then infringed, statutory damages and attorney’s fees are available. Otherwise, if the copyright is not registered, only an award of actual damages and profits is allowed. Registration also allows the copyright owner to record the copyright with the U.S. Customs Service, which will help protect against importation of infringing copies.
In order to register a copyright, some basic information is needed. When was the work created? When was the work originally published? Is this an original work or a derivative work? Was the work created for hire (i.e., done by an employee)? Is the work entirely original? When was the work completed?
Our knowledgeable copyright attorneys can assist an author or creator of a work in registering a copyright. Once the copyright has been obtained, we will work with the owner to ensure the copyright is properly retained and enforced. If someone other than the owner of that copyright reproduces the copyrighted work, we will assist the author with copyright litigation, when appropriate. Our attorneys can also help with any legal issues that arise under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which has adapted copyright law to keep pace with a digital world. The DMCA protects service providers from copyright liability that may arise from the infringement by their users.