Copyrights: Frequently Asked Questions
What is Copyright
Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. The owner of copyright has the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
- To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
- To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
- To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
- To display the work 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; and
- In the case of sound recordings*, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.
It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the copyright law to the owner of copyright. These rights, however, are not unlimited in scope, the copyright law establishes limitations on these rights. In some cases, these limitations are specified exemptions from copyright liability. One major limitation is of “fair use,” In other instances, the limitation takes the form of a “compulsory license” under which certain limited uses of copyrighted works are permitted upon payment of specified royalties and compliance with statutory conditions. For further information about the limitations of any of these rights, consult the copyright law
Who Can Claim Copyright
Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim copyright.
In the case of a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; the employer and not the employee is considered to be the author, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire.
The authors of a joint work are co-owners of the copyright in the work, unless there is an agreement to the contrary.
Ownership of a book, manuscript, painting, or any other copy or phonorecord does not give the possessor the copyright. The transfer of ownership of any material object that embodies a protected work does not of itself convey any rights in the copyright.
What Works Are Protected
Copyright protects “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. The fixation need not be directly perceptible so long as it may be communicated with the aid of a machine or device. Copyrightable works include the following categories:
- literary works;
- musical works, including any accompanying words
- dramatic works, including any accompanying music
- pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works\
- motion pictures and other audiovisual works
- sound recordings
- architectural works
These categories should be viewed broadly. For example, computer programs and most “compilations” may be registered as “literary works”.
What Is Not Protected by Copyright
Several categories of material are generally not eligible for copyright protection. These include among others:
- Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of
- Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration
- Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship (for example: standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources)
How to Secure a Copyright
Copyright Secured Automatically upon Creation
The way in which copyright protection is secured is frequently misunderstood, registration is not compulsory to secure copyright. There are, however, certain definite advantages to registration. Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is “created” when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time. “Copies” are material objects from which a work can be read or visually perceived either directly or with the aid of a machine or device, such as books, manuscripts, sheet music, film, videotape, or microfilm. “Phonorecords” are material objects embodying fixations of such as cassette tapes, CDs, or LPs. Thus, for example, a song (the “work”) can be fixed in sheet music (“copies”) or in phonograph disks (“phonorecords”), or both. If a work is prepared over a period of time, the part of the work that is fixed on a particular date constitutes the created work as of that date
How Long Copyright Protection Endures
A work that was created (fixed in tangible form for the first time) protected from the moment of its creation and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author’s life plus an additional 50 years after the author’s death. In the case of “a joint work prepared by two or more authors who did not work for hire,” the term lasts for 50 years after the last surviving author’s death. For works made for hire, and for anonymous and pseudonymous works the duration of copyright will be 50 years from publication.
Transfer of Copyright
Any or all of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights or any subdivision of those rights may be transferred, but the transfer of exclusive rights is not valid unless that transfer is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or such owner’s duly authorized agent.
- In general, copyright registration is a legal formality. However, registration is not a condition of copyright protection, but it establishes prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.
Who May File an Application Form
The following persons are legally entitled to submit an application form:
- The author. This is either the person who actually created the work or, if the work was made for hire, the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared.
- The copyright claimant. The copyright claimant is defined in Copyright regulations as either the author of the work or a person or organization that has obtained ownership of all the rights under the copyright initially belonging to the author. This category includes a person or organization who has obtained by contract the right to claim legal title to the copyright in an application for copyright registration.
- The owner of exclusive right(s).Under the law, any of the exclusive rights that make up a copyright and any subdivision of them can be transferred and owned separately, even though the transfer may be limited in time or place of effect. The term “copyright owner” with respect to any one of the exclusive rights contained in a copyright refers to the owner of that particular right. Any owner of an exclusive right may apply for registration of a claim in the work.
- The duly authorized agent of such author, other copyright claimant, or owner of exclusive right(s). Any person authorized to act on behalf of the author, other copyright claimant, or owner of exclusive rights may apply for registration.
There is no requirement that applications be prepared or filed by an attorney.
Fill-In Forms Available
All forms and Fee schedule are available on Website under the heading of Copyright Rules, 1967.