Copyright is a form of protection granted by law for original works "fixed in a tangible medium" of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.
Copyright is an area of law that provides creators and distributors of creative works with an incentive to share their works by granting them the right to be compensated when others use those works in certain ways. Specific rights are granted to the creators of creative works in the U.S. Copyright Act (title 17, U.S. Code). If you are not a copyright holder for a particular work, as determined by the law, you must ordinarily obtain copyright permission prior to reusing or reproducing that work. However, there are some specific exceptions in the Copyright Act for certain academic uses, and permission is never required for certain other actions, such as reading or borrowing original literary works or photographs from a library collection.
Copyright protects original works including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.
Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.
The rights granted by the Copyright Act are intended to benefit "authors" of "original works of authorship," including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural and audiovisual creations. This means that virtually any creative work that you may come across—including books, magazines, journals, newsletters, maps, charts, photographs, graphic materials, and other printed materials; unpublished materials, such as analysts' and consultants' reports; and non-print materials, including electronic content, computer programs and other software, sound recordings, motion pictures, video files, sculptures, and other artistic works—is almost certainly protected by copyright. Among the exclusive rights granted to those "authors" are the rights to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform and publicly display their works.
These rights provide copyright holders control over the use of their creations and an ability to benefit, monetarily and otherwise, from the use of their works. Copyright also protects the right to "make a derivative work," such as a movie from a book; the right to include a work in a collective work, such as publishing an article in a book or journal; and the rights of attribution and integrity for "authors" of certain works of visual art. Copyright law does not protect ideas, data or facts.
In the U.S., the general rule of copyright duration for a work created on or after January 1, 1978 is the author's life plus 70 years after the author's death. This is often referred to as "life-plus-70." Works created by companies or other types of organizations generally have a copyright term of 95 years. For more information on copyright duration, visit https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ15a.pdf.
Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form.
No, because copyright exists from the moment the work is created, but if you ever wish to sue someone for infringing on your copyright, you will have to register.
This section was created using information from The U.S. Copyright Office Frequently Asked Questions
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