COPYRIGHTS

What is a copyright?

A copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression.  Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.

 

What does copyright protect?

Copyright protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.

 

How is a copyright different from a patent or a trademark?

Copyright protects original works of authorship, while a patent protects inventions or discoveries. Ideas and discoveries are not protected by the copyright law, although the way in which they are expressed may be.  A trademark protects words, phrases, symbols or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishing them from those of others.

 

When is my work protected?

Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

 

Do I need to register my copyright?

No. In general, registration is voluntary.  Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work.

 

Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?

Registration is recommended for a number of reasons:

  1. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration.

  2. If registration is made within three months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney's fees may be available to the copyright owner in successful court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.

  3. If registration is made within five years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.

  4. Finally, registration allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U. S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies.

 

Is my copyright good in other countries?

The United States has copyright relations with most countries throughout the world, and as a result of these agreements, we honor each other's citizens' copyrights. However, the United States does not have such copyright relationships with every country.