We all have seen somewhere or the other, the word or symbol for copyright, much more than just hundred times, and must have always wondered what it actually means. In this article we will help you understand that in detail, so keep reading.
The definition of a copyright is that it is an individual’s exclusive right to reproduce, publish, or sell his or her original work of one’s own authorship (it includes a literary, dramatic, musical, an artistic, or any architectural work). Hence, it is really important to understand that copyright law protects the form of material expression, and not the actual ideas, concepts, facts, or techniques in a particular work.
Copyright is a type of intellectual property protecting each one’s creative works, like books, songs, movies, sound recordings, applications, software, paintings, artwork, etc. Trademarks and patents protect other types of intellectual property. A trademark is a tool that prevents any company from adopting a name, or a tagline, or a product configuration that is confusingly in some way similar to that used by a competitor. Trademarks help consumers to identify the source of what they’re buying or using. Whereas a patent protects inventions and discoveries like ideas, processes, methods, concepts, machines and devices and more things as such. Patent law protects an idea, while copyright law protects the expression of that idea, that is the exact words or form chosen to convey the idea.
Copyright protection is governed by federal law and it has been a part of the country since its founding. Copyright law was seen as a vehicle for adding to society’s wealth of culture and knowledge by encouraging the creation and dissemination of new creative works and information. Copyright does this by giving its owner certain rights over a work and its commercialization. So, to get a copyright protection, the work which is created must be independently created by the author. Then it must have at least a minimal amount of creativity. And lastly, it must be fixed in a tangible medium. In older centuries like during 1700s, the works which were included in the copyright law were just limited to the maps, charts and books but today copyright protection includes all of the literary works, musical works and sound recordings, artistic works, painting, dramatic works, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural work, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, pantomimes and choreography, software making and architectural works as well. Copyrighted works do not include ideas, procedures, processes, systems, methods, concepts, and discoveries. Now, other things which are not protected by copyright include things like facts, names, titles and short phrases, typeface, fonts and lettering, blank forms, and familiar symbols and designs.
Copyright protects the expressive content of a work, but not the underlying thoughts and ideas. Now, as soon as the original work is fixed, it is protected by the copyright law. The registering of the work with the Copyright Office is a great idea as it creates a public record of the work for its own benefit. Registration benefits copyright owners in a way that later on you can claim a lawsuit about someone who has infringed your copyright and then a timely registration gives certain legal presumptions and also allows you to seek attorney’s fees and statutory damages in a lawsuit.
Copyright law gives authors certain exclusive rights in their works for a limited time. For example, copyright owners have the exclusive right to sell their books or say publicly display their photographs, or publicly perform their plays, or authorize others to do so. But these exclusive rights do not last forever. Generally, they last for the life of the author plus seventy years, or, in the case of works made for hire or anonymous works, for either 95 years from the date of first publication or say 120 years from the date of when it was created first, whichever is shorter. Works created before 1978 have a different term calculation. Users generally need permission before using someone else’s copyrighted work, but there are several exceptions and limitations. Fair use is the most famous. It allows journalists to use copyrighted text in news reports or for an author to parody another author’s work. Another exception is the first sale doctrine, which allows the owner of a copy of a protected work to resell or otherwise dispose of that copy. Do you love used bookstores? That’s the first sales doctrine at work.
Copyright matters a lot. It protects creative work, original writing, art, photographs, audios, images, music, song lyrics or even the choreographed steps of a dance all of these are the intellectual property of the person who created them. Copyrights are usually granted by public law and in that case, they are considered as territorial rights. This means that copyrights are granted by the law of a certain state, and hence they do not extend beyond the territory of that specific jurisdiction. Copyrights of this type vary in different countries. Many countries or say a large group of countries have made pacts or agreements with other countries, on steps and procedures which are applicable when creative works cross national borders or national rights are inconsistent.
In the countries where the Berne Convention standards are applied, the copyright is automatic. Its advantage at such places is that it need not be obtained through official registration with any government office. Once an idea has been reduced to tangible form, then the copyright holder is entitled to enforce his or her exclusive rights. However, while registration it is not needed to exercise copyright in jurisdictions where the laws provide for registration as it serves as prima facie evidence of a valid copyright and enables the copyright holder to seek statutory damages and attorney’s fees as well.
A strategy which is widely circulated to avoid the cost of copyright registration is referred to as the poor man’s copyright.
Copyright is also legal in some countries including the United States and the United Kingdom to produce the alternative versions (like in large print or braille language) of a copyrighted work to provide improved access to a work for blind and visually impaired people without permission from the copyright holder itself.
Hope this article has helped you to understand what copyright is.