What is Copyright law?
A copyright is a legal protection of intellectual property or original work of some kind. A copyright does not refer to all intellectual property, however; patents, trade secrets, and trademarks are considered separate and distinct legal notions.
Though the term “copyright” often actually refers to copyright law, to acquire “a copyright” often means to register an original work with the appropriate government, thereby acquiring the legal protections provided for in that government’s legal system.
Do I need to register a copyright with my state?
No; copyrights are typically regulated by the U.S. federal government. Although copyright is a legal notion that carries weight just about everywhere in the world, there are individual copyright laws in sovereign nations – the United States is no exception. In fact, the powers of the federal government to protect intellectual property are explicitly stated in the U.S. Constitution. For this reason, copyright laws tend to cross state boundaries more than other types of laws.
What kinds of property are protected with a copyright?
Just about any type of original or created work can be protected with a copyright.These include works of literature, music, drama, sound, architecture, choreography, graphicsand sculpture, though they are certainly not limited to those listed here.
What kinds of rights are afforded in copyright law?
There are a number of exclusive rights – exclusive, of course, meaning that the possessor of the copyright also possesses these rights while no one else does that result from registering a copyright with the government. Being able to reproduce a work, for example, is one of the most primary rights in copyright law – this right is the subject of controversy in the music and movie industries because it can be so easy to reproduce materials in the digital world. Another exclusive right of copyright holders is the public display or performance of the work; if a play is copyrighted, for example, the author’s permission may be needed before the play can be reproduced. This is, of course, unless the copyright has expired and the work has entered the public domain.
How long do copyrights last?
Although copyrights exist to protect new and original work, they do expire after a long time – usually around a lifetime, though this can depend on a number of factors. In general, copyrights will last 70 years after the creation of the work and registration of the copyright. However, certain types of copyright (such as anonymous work) might last as long as 120 years from the year of the creation of said work or 95 years from the copyright registration. You can visit copyright.gov for more information on when copyrights are set to expire.
Can someone who didn’t create the work acquire a copyright?
Yes; in fact, this happens quite often. For example, a work-for-hire arrangement means that the person or company paying for the creation of the work will be entitled to its rights. These can happen either through employment relationships or private agreements, contracts and commissions. This will result in accepting just a one-time fee or salary for the original creator of the work, but the copyright would not transfer without the creator’s permission. (Note: even in cases of employment where individual permission of the rights to work created is not always sought out, the employee agreement will often cover this aspect of the employer-employee relationship).
If something is copyrighted, can I still use it?
Yes. There are ways to attain assignments and licenses of copyrighted material that will allow you to use the copyrighted material in specified ways. There are generally three types of ways that copyrights can be used by other people: through copyright assignments, exclusive licenses, and non-exclusive licenses. Assignments and exclusive licenses will have to be put into writing; forms such as Copyright Assignment Agreements exist for exactly this purpose. Many companies that use cross-promotion strategies in marketing will have to license their copyrighted material to each other in order for the cross-promotion to be protected under copyright law.
How do I register a copyright?
The first thing to do is to acquire the proper forms for registering the type of copyright you want to register – for example, if you want to register a piece of literary work, you’ll want to acquire the form for literary works. You can also download copyright application packages online if you have more than one type of copyright to register for; typically, these packages come with instructions for copyright registration that will walk you through the process.
How long will it take to acquire a copyright?
It varies, but according to the U.S. Copyright Office’s website, the general processing time for e-Filing is three months and the processing time for paper forms is approximately ten months.
What kind of legal forms can I use to protect my copyright?
There are a number of forms that apply to different situations. For example, a Reprint Permission is a good way to ensure that the people using your copyright have verified permission to use it. A Copyright Assignment Agreement is another common form that is required if you are going to grant certain rights to someone else who plans on using your copyright for their own purposes.
When it comes to protecting your copyright from rights infringement, you can use forms like a Copyright Cease and Desist letter or a Digital Millennium Copyright Act Notice of Infringement. Using the correct forms to suit the situation – as well as using the forms correctly, of course – will be important in keeping your copyright protected.
How do I use someone else’s copyright?
That’s up to a private agreement between you and the copyright owner. However, you should be sure to use the right forms if you can form such an agreement with the owner. Copyright Assignment Agreements and Copyright License Agreements are typical forms used for exactly this purpose. You may want to be sure that you use the agreement form that applies specifically to the type of copyright license you’re acquiring.