Copyright protection is available for certain types of original works. It allows authors, artists, and other creators of original works to create works without fear of someone else copying and profiting from their work. FindLaw's section on Copyrights provides information and resources on getting copyright protection for your own work, licensing copyrights, using someone else's copyrighted material, and much more. In this section you can also find links to forms and resources from the U.S. Copyright Office.
What Can Be Copyrighted?
Copyright is a type of intellectual property protection that protects the "form of material expression." This means that facts, ideas, concepts, or techniques of a particular work are not protected. For this reason, copyright protection is only available for works that are fixed in a tangible form. Examples of fixed in tangible form are a story written on paper or a painting on canvas. The categories of works that are protected under copyright law include software, paintings, literary works, photographs, movies, sound recording, musical works, and television broadcasts.
Rights of a Copyright Owner
A copyright owner is afforded certain exclusive rights over the work. The copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce the work, sell the work, and perform or display the work publicly. The copyright owner also has the exclusive right to create derivative works, which are new works based on the original copyrighted work. If the copyright owner would like to give these rights to another person, he or she has the option to transfer ownership or give a person a license to use the work. If the copyright owner transfers his or her rights, he or she ceases to be the copyright owner. If, on the other hand, the copyright owner gives someone a license, then he or she is still the owner of the copyright, he or she simply gives certain rights to use the work.
Requirements for Copyright Protection
The main requirements to receive copyright protection are that it is an original work and fixed in a tangible form. While registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not a requirement for receiving copyright protection, there are benefits to registering a copyright. For example, registration of a copyright provides a public record of the copyright claim in the work. Registration is also required before you can file a copyright infringement lawsuit.
Original works created after March 1989 are not required to include a copyright notice to have copyright protection; however, there are benefits to having a copyright notice on your work. The notice of copyright alerts the public to the fact that work is under copyright protection and identifies the year the work was first published and the copyright owner. In addition, including a copyright notice doesn't require any formal steps – you simply need to include the notice in your work.
Hiring an Intellectual Property Attorney
Whether you would like to find out if your work qualifies for copyright protection or you would like to find out if you can use someone else's work, an intellectual property attorney can help you navigate through all the aspects of copyright law.