Myers Berstein
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7 MUST KNOW FACTS ABOUT U.S. COPYRIGHT LAW

Copyright_symbol_9.gif1. What is a copyright?
A copyright allows authors of "original works of authorship," such as literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and other intellectual property works to have a form of protection.

2. What are your rights granted under copyright?
A copyright grants you many exclusive rights including: reproducing the work, creating derivative works based on the work, distributing copies of the work, publicly displaying the work, performing the work and performing the work publicly by means of digital audio transmission (for sound recordings).

3. What cannot be copyright protected?
There are a few things that even copyright law can't protect. Ideas being one of them. Your latest billion-dollar idea will have no protection until the idea has been made into something original and tangible. Also making the list are fashion designs, methods, and systems. However, these may fall under patent protection. 

4. How long does it last?
This question is not as easy as one would think. The answer depends on the type of work (published or unpublished works) and the date of creation. For works created on or after January 1, 1978 the duration of the copyright lasts from the moment of its creation and lasts for the author's life plus an additional 70 years.

5. What is copyright infringement?
Copyright infringement is when protected works are used without permission from the copyright holder. "Used" meaning any of the exclusive rights listed above.

6. Why should you register with the U.S. Copyright Office?
If an individual or company infringes on your copyright then you have the ability to sue the infringer with the possibility of obtaining a court order to prohibit the infringer from using the work, and receiving monetary damages.

7. Myths about copyright.
There are many misconceptions about copyright law and it is the responsibility of each individual to make sure they are well informed.

Do not assume that a work is in the public domain or that a work is not protected because a copyright symbol is not shown. You can look up registered works on the Copyright Office website to determine whether or not you may use the work.

Do not assume that your use of another's work is allowable under the fair use doctrine. Most people do not interpret this law correctly and it is important to obtain legal advice before using any work without permission.

For more information on copyright matters, please visit our dedicated page.

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