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Overview of Copyrighting a New Work of Authorship

copyrightAre you thinking about copywriting a new work of authorship? If yes, congratulations –  it means that you are or are working with a gifted individual in the fields of writing, arts, video, sound, music, Digital media, or others, and are talented enough to protect your new original work from infringement by others.

If you need an overview of copyright law, and the mechanics of copywriting and work of authorship, read on and let us know if you have any questions.

What Is Copyright Law?

Copyright is a federal law that allows authors to control use of their work by preventing third parties from using them in certain ways.

What Can Be Copyrighted?

In order to qualify for copyright, a work must be an original work of authorship that is fixed in a tangible medium of expression.

Generally, new works of authorship fall into eight categories which are designated as categories for which works can be copyrightable:

  • Literary, musical and dramatic works.
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works.
  • Pictorial, graphic and sculptural works.
  • Sound recordings.
  • Motion pictures and other AV works.
  • Computer programs.
  • Compilations of works and derivative works.
  • Architectural works.

What Can’t be Copyrighted?

Another question that individuals often have is what cannot be copyrighted. Generally, the following cannot be copyrighted:

  • Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, and processes
  • Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans
  • Facts, news, and research
  • Works in the public domain
  • Works that cannot be fixed in a tangible medium of expression

What Does Copyrighting a Work Actually Do?

Once you copyrighted work, you are given six exclusive rights over the work:

  • To reproduce the work.
  • To distribute the work.
  • To create derivative works.
  • To publicly perform the work.
  • To publicly display the work.
  • To publicly perform sound recordings by means of a digital audio transmission.

A “Derivative Work” is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consists of editorial revision, annotation, elaboration, or other modifications, which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a “Derivative Work”.

Do I have to Copyright My Work to Protect It?

No. You do not necessarily have to have a copyright in order for your work to be protected from infringement –  however, you do need to have a copyright to enforce your right to prevent others from misusing or infringing on it. Without a copyright, it is impossible to bring a federal enforcement action to prevent someone from infringing on your copyrighted work or seeking damages for the unlawful uses of your work.

What does the Copyright Process Involve?

What are the Fees and Costs Associated with a New Copyright Registration?

Is It Necessary To Use The Copyright Symbol?

No. As of March 1, 1989, it is no longer necessary to place the copyright notice symbol © on your work in order to protect it.

How Long Will My Copyright Last?

Your copyright will last for your lifetime + 70 years, if you’re an individual. If the author is a corporate author,  or if it is a work for hire, then copyright protection lasts for 95 years from the date of publication or hundred and 20 years from its creation, whichever is shorter.

If your work was created and published prior to 1978, it may be protected for different length of time. However, this is generally not relevant for the majority of new works of authorship.

What is in the Public Domain?

All works published in the United States before 1923 are considered in the public domain.

What Do I Do if Someone Infringes on My Copyrighted Work?

Call us! Axis Legal Counsel handles copyright infringement actions on behalf of victims of copyright infringement. It will be necessary to assert legal claims against the infringer, or issue a cease and desist demand in order to have the infringing party halt their unlawful activities. Although the right strategy will vary from case to case, please give us a call we will be glad to go over the options with you. Axis Legal Counsel offers free telephonic consultations and we will be glad to speak to you about your case.


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