Common Copyright Questions

Hello! If you’re visiting, I’m guessing you have questions about copyright law, trademark law, and more. This entry is just an introduction to copyright law, and some of the common questions that come up in the area.

WHAT IS COPYRIGHT LAW?

Copyright law is a subset of laws that govern ownership of created works of art. The work of art could be a writing, (a book, an article, a movie script), a drawing, a painting, software, and more. It is governed by the federal government, and codified in the Section 17 of the US Constitution. The purpose of it is to promote the arts and the sciences.

WHAT IS A COPYRIGHT?

A copyright is ownership and protection for your particular work that you created.

WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS?

A copyright is automatically granted. In order to gain a copyright, the work of art needs a few things:

  1. Originality
  2. Fixation in a tangible medium of expression

Legal Definition:

“Copyright protection subsists … in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device”

  1. Originality

Did you make the work yourself? That is the only necessary requirement for originality. You did not copy or steal it from someone else.

  1. Fixation in a tangible medium of expression

 Legal Definition:

“A work is ‘fixed’ in a tangible medium of expression when its embodiment in a copy or phonorecord, by or under the authority of the author, is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than transitory duration. . . .”

Is the work able to be perceived in some permanent form in some way? It could be a writing, a picture, a movie, a video game, a drawing or painting. One way to wrap your mind around this requirement would be if you can use any of your 5 senses (see, hear, smell, taste, touch) to perceive the work.

WHY SHOULD I REGISTER MY COPYRIGHT?

Registering your copyright allows you to collect damages. You can not sue someone unless your copyright is registered before the lawsuit commences.

WHAT CAN/CAN NOT BE COPYRIGHTED?

You can own a copyright in almost anything that you create. The better question is what can not be copyrighted.

“In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.”

Abstract ideas, facts, laws of nature/physics, processes, such as the law of relativity, the law of acceleration, can not be protected by copyright. In regards to ideas, they are intangible, and thus not placed in any kind of medium where that idea can be expressed. You can not own things that are functional, such as clothing or a box. You can own software, as software has a level of expression to it. Video games are a good example of copyright in software.

 

This is just a small bit of how copyright law works. I hope that this was helpful to you, and I wish you the best in your artistic endeavors. If you need any help, please feel free to reach out to me.

 

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