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What is a Copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the creators of "original works" including literary works, movies, musical works, sound recordings, paintings, photographs, software, live performances, and television or sound broadcasts. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. The Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to:

  • Reproduce the work;
  • Prepare other works based upon the work ("derivative works");
  • Distribute copies of the work by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by lease;
  • Perform the work publicly; and
  • Display the copyrighted work publicly.

The copyright owner also can authorize others to do all of the above.

Copyright law only covers the particular form or manner in which ideas or information have been manifested, the "form of material expression". It does not cover the actual idea, concepts, facts, or techniques contained in the copyright work.

For example, the copyrighted "Superman" comic books may not be reproduced and distributed for sale without authorization from the copyright owner. The copyright also prohibits others from creating similar works involving the Superman character. However, the copyright does not prohibit anyone from creating a work about a super-human character in general.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified business attorney to help you identify
how to best protect your business' intellectual property.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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