Copyright Overview

What is a Copyright?

The United States provided laws for the owners of the copyright, being published and unpublished work, to protect their piece. The types of work that are protected are: literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. The Copyright Act gives the owner of the copyright different rights. Anybody not owning the copyright can’t make copies of the original work, they can’t make copies based on the original, and they can’t make copies of the original work and the sell, lease, or rent them out to the public. There are more rights that are for a certain type of work rather than being so broad.


Copyright was invented after the inventionf the printing press . As a legal concept, its origins began in Britain after Charles II was concerned by the unregulated copying of books and passed the Licensing of the Press Act of 1662. The Statue of Anne was the first real copyright act, and gave the publishers rights for a period the copyright expired. The 1886 Berne Convention first established recognition of copyrights among nations. Under the Berne Convention, copyrights for do not have to be declared nor do an author need not "register" or "apply for" a copyright in countries adhering to the Berne Convention. The United States did not sign the Berne Convention until 1989

Can't Be Copyrighted

1. Ideas, Methods, or Systems

2. Commonly Known Information (calenders,rulers)

3. Choreographic Works (speeches)

4. Names, Titles, Short Phrases, or Expressions


5. Fashion (clothes)

Process of Getting a Copyright

A person looking to obtain a copyright can by filing an application with the U.S. Copyright Office. This is the fastest way to file an application. There is a small fee of $35 or $45 online, to apply. An applicant can also submit a paper application to the Copyright Office. The Copyright Office must receive a copy of the work to be copyrighted. Otherwise, the applicant must print a slip generated when he submits his online application. If it is made by mail, the application, filing fee and a copy of the work must be mailed in one complete package. Applications will not be returned and copies of the work are deposited at the Library of Congress.

Poor Man's Copyright

A strategy to avoid the cost of copyright registration is referred to as the "poor man's copyright". The process involves the creator send the work to himself in a sealed envelope by mail, using the postmark telling the date and time the package was delivered. The United States Copyright Office makes it clear that the technique is no substitute for actual registration.

How Long Does a Copyright Last?

For works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For an anonymous work it can last 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first.

Who Can Claim a Copyright?

While working for a company the employee does not own the copyright, the employer would be considered the author. For example if you work at a record producing studio and you write a song for the company, you do own the copyright for the song, the company does. You might extra perks for writing it but you do not own it. The only way you could both own the copyright is if both sides agreed to signing a written document that it is ok for both parties to be co-owners of the copyright. All works that are unpublished, regardless of the nationality of the author, are protected in the United States. Works that are first published in the United States or in a country with which we have a copyright treaty is also protected.

What Rights Do Copyright Owners Have?

  • reproduction right -- the right to make copies of a protected work
  • distribution right -- the right to sell or otherwise distribute copies to the public
  • right to create adaptations (called derivative works) -- the right to prepare new works based on the protected work, and
  • performance and display rights -- the rights to perform a protected work (such as a stageplay) or to display a work in public.

Public Domain

The public domain consists of all works that never had copyright protection and works that no longer have copyright protection. The public domain also includes most works created by the United States government. All works in the public domain are free for the public to use. Works published in the United States prior to 1923 are in the public domain.

Infringement Of Copyrights

Copyright Infringement (Violation) —When a person or people use copyrighted material without permission or the right of ownership.

In most cases of Copyright Infringement nothing happens until the owner files a complaint.

Criminal penalties might include jail time, an order to perform community service, probation, loss of property and the risk of lost work or educational privileges.

Ways to violate copyrighted items

· copying a CD or video for a friend or making a photocopy of a textbook

(make these examples.)

Illegal downloading of software, movies and music is extremely common, and these illegal downloads have historically been heavily penalized (more examples