A copyright provides protection for original works, so that the creator of the work can have exclusive rights over the work. These rights include displaying, reproducing, distributing, and performing the work, as well as creating derivative works.
If another person performs any of these rights without authorization, such as a obtaining a copyright license or an assignment, the copyright owner may pursue a copyright infringement case against the person. A copyright does not protect the work indefinitely, however, and if the copyright owner wishes for a longer period of protection, he or she can renew the copyright for an additional amount of time.
Process for Copyright Renewal
The rules for copyright renewal vary depending on when the work was originally copyrighted. In 1992, copyright laws were amended making renewals automatic and renewal registration optional for any work that was originally copyrighted between the dates of January 1, 1964 and December 31, 1977. For works before these dates, the copyright must have been renewed in order to continue to have copyright protection.
If you choose to register your copyright renewal, there are a few facts that will be helpful to know. First, there are only certain people who can claim copyright renewal: the author or, if the author is dead, the surviving spouse and/or the author's children. In the event that the deceased author leaves no spouse or children, the executor of the author's will can claim copyright renewal, and if there is no will, the author's next of kin can make the renewal claim.
In order to file a renewal application you must use Form RE provided by the U.S. Copyright Office and pay a renewal fee. Also important to know is that the renewal registration will be effective on the date that the U.S. Copyright Office receives all of the required documents in an acceptable form. The length of time it takes to process the application and mail the certificate of registration is irrelevant to the effective date of the registration renewal.
Notice of Renewal of Copyright
Under current U.S. law, a notice of copyright is no longer required for a copyright to be valid. However, copyright notices are beneficial for several reasons. For instance, it can prevent a defendant in a copyright infringement case from successfully claiming an "innocent infringement defense." In the event that a copyright is renewed, there aren't any laws addressing whether the notice of copyright must be updated to reflect the renewal. However, a notice that includes the fact that the copyright has been renewed is more accurate and informative. Here is an example of an original copyright notice and a notice of a copyright renewal: Copyright 1998 FindLaw and Copyright Renewed 2006 by FindLaw.
Getting Legal Help
Whether you are filing for your initial copyright, looking to give someone a copyright license, or registering a copyright renewal for your existing copyright, a local intellectual property attorney can help guide you through the process.
For more information related to this topic as well as other forms of intellectual property, such as patents and trademarks, please visit FindLaw's section on Intellectual Property.