COPYRIGHTSA copyright centers fundamentally upon the original expression of an idea, whether literary, artistic, commercial or otherwise as long as it is recorded upon a tangible medium. A copyright protects literary works, musical works, dramatic works, choreographic works, graphic works, audiovisual works, sound recordings and architectural works. The author of the work immediately has exclusive rights in the work after fixation of the work in a tangible form. The Copyright Act grants copyright owners exclusive rights in five categories: reproduction, adaptation, public distribution, public performance, and public display. You can view a Copyright Seminar that Michael Neustel presented on September 19, 2012.
SCOPE OF PROTECTIONCopyright protects only the form of expression, not the underlying idea since ideas are statutorily free to all. For works prior to 1978, copyright protection lasts for the author's lifetime plus 50 years after the author's death. However, if the copyright is a "work made for hire", the copyright lasts for the shorter of 75 years from date of publication, or 100 years from the date of creation.
For works after 1978, copyright protection lasts for the author's lifetime plus 70 years after the author's death. However, if the copyright is a "work made for hire", the copyright lasts for the shorter of 95 years from date of publication, or 120 years from the date of creation.
COPYRIGHT NOTICEA copyright notice is no longer mandatory to place on a distributed copy to enjoy federal copyright protection. However, it is recommended to use a copyright notice on all works, otherwise an alleged infringer may claim "innocent infringement" as a defense.
The copyright owner may affix the statutory copyright notice to all publicly distributed copies of a work in a manner that provides reasonable notice. A copyright notice consists of three elements: (i) the word "Copyright", "Copr." or a © ("C" with a circle); (ii) the year-date of first publication; and (iii) the name of the owner of the copyright, for example:
Copyright [YEAR OF PUBLICATION] [NAME OF OWNER] ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
BENEFITS OF REGISTRATIONRegistering a copyright has many benefits. Registration of a copyright is required before bringing an infringement lawsuit. In addition, if the copyright is registered within three months of the work's first publication, the owner may be entitled to statutory damages and attorneys fees in an infringement suit which are not available to unregistered copyrights. Also, federal registration is prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright if registered within five years of the first publication.