As a Los Angeles Copyright Attorney, I’ve handled many cases dealing with music, art and publications among other things. Copyright is a form of protection given by United States Laws to the authors/creators of original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual works. The 1976 Copyright Act gives the owner of the Copyright the exclusive right to do or authorize others to reproduce, distribute, perform, display publicly or make derivative copies of the work. Copyright is given to published and unpublished works. The 1976 Copyright Act defines publication as, “The distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication.”
A Copyright is created automatically when a person authors/creates a work in fixed form. In other words, ideas in one’s head are not given Copyright protection! Employees who are hired to author/create works do not have a Copyright to the work, the employer does. It is illegal anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the Copyright law to the owner of Copyright. There are certain instances where one may use another Copyright without violating the law. The Doctrine of Fair Use is one such instance.
Works created after January 1, 1978 are given a term of protection of 70 years plus the span of the author’s life.
Copyright registration is not required in order to have Copyright protection. However, Copyright registration does provide the owner with these advantages; a public record, the right to file an infringement lawsuit, statutory damages and attorneys fees available in a court action in addition to actual damages and profits if the Copyright is registered within three months of publication, the right to record the Copyright with US Customs to prevent importation of infringing copies, and prima facie evidence in Court of the validity of the Copyright if registered within five years of publication.
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