Copyrights: What You Can Copyright and Defending Copyright Infringement
This guide is a summary of key things to consider when registering your works of authorship with the United States Federal Government.
What You Can CopyrightYou can copyright "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." 17 U.S.C. 102 (2008).
Defining Works of AuthorshipWorks of authorship include literary works, musical works (including any accompanying words), dramatic works (including any accompanying music), pantomime and choreographic works, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, sound recordings and architectural works.
Exclusive Rights of Copyright Owners under the United States Code-The right to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords
- The right to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted works
- The right to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
- In the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, the right to perform the copyrighted material publicly
- In the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly
Things Excluded from Copyright ProtectionExcluded from copyright protection is 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.
Defending Against Copyright Infringement: Defining Copyright InfringementCopyright infringement is the unauthorized use of someone else's copyrights. Here is wht the law says:
"To establish infringement, two elements must be proven: 1) ownership of a valid copyright, and 2) copying of constituent elements of the work that are original. (Feist Publ'ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., Inc., 499 U.S. 340, 361 (1991).
Defending Against Copyright Infringement: Protecting Your Copyrights from InfringementUnfortunately, there is no certain way to guard against someone using your copyrights. However, you always want to be in a position to prove that you own your copyrights so that you have the legal means to stop infringement as soon as it comes to your attention. That it why it is so important that you copyright your eligible works of authorship early and often. Registering your copyrights the is always the best way to ensure that you own your copyrights and can prevent use of your copyrights unless you have given express permission to do so.
Defending Against Copyright Infringement: Your Defenses for InfringementWhat happens if you are accused of using someone else's copyright without permission? Defenses to copyright infringement vary for each case. Here are two general infringement defenses:
1) You did not copy an actual expression, but rather an idea or concept to make your own work of authorship.
2) The Fair Use Doctrine, which says that you may use another's copyrighted work for the purposes of "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research."