In the United States, copyright protects "works of authorship". These works are most easily identified when referring to literary, artistic, musical, and dramatic works. However, many other types of works also fall under this category of intellectual property. For example, the actual code used to create a webpage or software, as well as the content, is generally protected under copyright law. Further, unpublished and published works are both protected under copyright. Many exclusive rights are granted to the authors or copyright holders. However, it is important to understand the extent of these rights as well as the limitations. Similarly, the legal remedies available to a copyright holder may differ depending on whether the work has been registered with the United States Copyright Office.
Rights of Copyright Holders:
The author or owner of a copyrighted work has many abilities to take advantage of their creativity and product. Amont these are the rights of:
- Reproduction or copies of
- Distributing through the use of sale, transfer of ownership, rentals, or lease.
- Making derivative works based on the original work.
- In some cases, the performance to the public or display to the public of the work.
- In some cases, rights of attribution and integrity.
Many of these rights are subject to limitations based on doctrines recognized under U.S. law. In addition, copyright holders should be careful to protect their work when engaging in the transactions and behavior described above to minimize the risk of missappropriation and infringement. Similarly, while a work does not need to be registered in the United States to be protected, registration does provide some benefits to right holders.
Limitations, Violations, and Registration:
As way of example, some of the limitations on copyrighted works include the first sale doctrine and the fair use doctrine recognized in U.S case law. Infringment and other violations typically occur when people pirate, copy, pass of as their own, distribute, sell, or create derivative or similar works to that of the original authors. Registration of a copyrighted work provides an author with many additional legal rights and remedies. The most important benefit is the ability to file a lawsuit for infringment of a copyright. Secondly, those who register their copyright within 3 months of first publication may be able to recover statutory damages and attorney's fees. Registration also works as a way of informing others that the work is protected and makes it more difficult for infringers to argue that they violated a copyright innocently. Lastly, if a work is registered within 5 years of first publication there will be a presumption in U.S. courts that the copyright is valid and the information contained in the registration is accurate. Felce Law can help you register your works, structure transactions, and protect authors from infringement.