Origins of Copyright
According to the United Kingdom government, the Statute of Anne was the first statute to legally address copyright during the eighteen century. In the United States, the first copyright law was passed in 1790.
FAQ Copyright Questions
Can I make a copy of DVD's or CD's I rent or buy?
No. Most creations (see the details below) have copyright protection upon creation. You can certainly rest assured that all the DVD's and CD's you buy with your favorite songs and movies on them are copyright protected and any copying by you, with almost no exception, IS copyright infringement.
Internet Fair Use Law
Copyright applies to the Internet, just like it does to other mediums -- copy machines, tape recorders, etc. It is not true that because something is on the Internet it does not have copyright protection. There is no special Fair Use law for materials on the Internet. Fair Use is a very restrictive concept and is not a simple one. You can read about it in the Supreme Court case:CAMPBELL, aka SKYYWALKER, et al. v. ACUFF ROSE MUSIC, INC. which is about 2 Live Crew's remake of the Roy Orbison song "Pretty Woman".
When Do You Get a Copyright?
Upon creation (in a fixed form), a creator (author) has a copyright in the work.
What's Required to Get a Copyright?
You do not need to apply or register to have a copyright; you receive copyright protection when you create the work. However, registering, a process with a fee, your work expands your legal protections and usually can be done without disclosing the entire work. Depositing a copy of your work, a free process, with the Copyright Office within 90 days is a mandatory requirement (see here) and can your work by providing a legal record of the creation date and allowing others to have notice of your ownership rights. Neither registering or the deposit requirement are mandatory for copyright protection of the work however.
The following categories of works have copyright protection:
- literary works
- musical works, including any accompanying words
- dramatic works, including any accompanying music
- pantomimes and choreographic works
- pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
- motion pictures and other audiovisual works
- sound recordings
- architectural works
Software, sometimes the GUI, and webpages have copyright protection.
- The following do not have copyright protection:
Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression, (for example, choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded, or improvisational speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded)
- Works without enough "originality" (creativity) to merit copyright protection: titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; font design; ingredients or contents; facts; blank forms, etc. As there is great tension here between granting incentive and financial reward when something is worthy, but not granting it to things so basic and commonly used that everyone would be forced to pay, the law is somewhat unclear in this area.
- Ideas or concepts. Copyright protects the expression of the idea, but not the ideas themselves. This is easier to understand if you remember the goals of our Founding Fathers to reward creations, but protect the free flow of ideas and information. For example (*this is Plato?s explanation of the concept long before copyright), if I ask you what a chair is, you get a picture in your head; the picture I get in my head is different; the picture Buffy gets in her head is different. These are the ?ideas? of what a chair is. However, if you draw the chair in your head or use words to describe the chair, that the ?expression? of the idea and that is protected by copyright.
What Do You Have When You Have a Copyright and Is There Any Risk?
The 1976 Copyright Act gives the owner of a copyright the exclusive right
- to copy the work
- to modify the work (create "derivative works")
- to distribute the work
- to perform the work publicly
Length of copyright protection can be complex, but generally lasts 70 years after the death of the creator.
As registration of copyright is not required for protection and some registrations can be done without full disclosure of the work, persons that want to keep their creation secret often opt to rely on copyright protection for their work. If registration is desired, it is relatively simple and inexpensive.