The U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to enact laws relating to copyrights. Specifically, Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution states that Congress shall have power... "to promote the progress of science and useful Arts, by securing for limited times to authors .... the exclusive right to their respective writings ..." The federal copyright laws are codified at Title 17 of the United States Code.

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States 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 This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.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 copyright laws generally gives the owner of a copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

• reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords
• prepare derivative works based upon the work
• distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
• perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works
• 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
• perform the work publicly (in the case of sound recordings) 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. There are limitations on these rights. In some cases, these limitations are specified exemptions from copyright liability. One major limitation is the doctrine of "fair use" which allows a person to use a copyright for non-commercial purposes.

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 works made for hire, the employer and not the employee is considered to be the author. The copyright laws define a "work made for hire" as:

(1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or
(2) a work specially ordered or commissioned provided the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire.

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:

(1) literary works;
(2) musical works, including any accompanying words;
(3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
(4) pantomimes and choreographic works;
(5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
(6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
(7) sound recordings; and
(8) architectural works.

The above categories are viewed broadly. For example, computer programs and most "compilations" may be registered as "literary works." Maps and architectural plans may be registered as "pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works."

  • How is a Copyright Registration Filed?

    At FOXPATENT, all copyright registrations are electronically filed with the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress. The government filing fee for electronically filing a copyright is $35. We offer an all inclusive flat fee for electronically filing a Copyright and forwarding you the Copyright Certificate.

  • What is the Effective Date of a Copyright Registration?

    When the Copyright Office issues a registration certificate, it assigns as the effective date of registration the date it received all required elements an application, a non-refundable filing fee, and a non-returnable deposit - in acceptable form, regardless of how long it took to process the application and mail the certificate. You do not have to receive your certificate before you publish or produce your work, nor do you need permission from the Copyright Office to place a copyright notice on your work. However, the Copyright Office must have acted on your application before you can file a suit for copyright infringement, and certain remedies, such as statutory damages and attorneys fees, are available only for acts of infringement that occurred after the effective date of registration. If a published work was infringed before the effective date of registration, those remedies may also be available if the effective date of registration is no later than three months after the first publication of the work.

  • What is a Copyright Registration?

    In general, copyright registration is a legal formality intended to make a public record of the basic facts of a particular copyright. However, registration is not a condition of copyright protection. Even though registration is not a requirement for protection, the copyright law provides several advantages to encourage copyright owners to make registration. Among these advantages are the following:
    • Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim.
    • Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U. S. origin.
    • If made before or within five years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.
    • If registration is made within three months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorneys fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.
    • Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U. S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies.

  • What Is Not Protected by a Copyright?

    Several categories of material are generally not eligible for federal copyright protection. These include among others:
    • works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression (for example, choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded, or improvisational speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded)
    • titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents
    • 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)

  • What is the term of a Copyright?

    A work that was created (fixed in tangible form for the first time) on or after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its creation and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author's life plus an additional 70 years after the author's death. For works made for hire, and for anonymous and pseudonymous works (unless the author's identity is revealed in Copyright Office records), the duration of copyright will be 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.

  • What is the Proper Form of Notice for a Copyright?

    The notice for visually perceptible copies should contain all the following three elements:
    (1) The symbol © (the letter C in a circle), or the word Copyright;
    (2) The year of first publication of the work; and
    (3) The name of the owner of copyright in the work.
    Following is an example of a proper copyright notice: ©2013 John Doe, All Rights Reserved or Copyright 2013 John Doe, All Rights Reserved

  • How is a Copyright Secured?

    A copyright is secured automatically upon creation. The way in which copyright protection is secured is frequently misunderstood. No publication or registration or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright. There are, however, certain definite advantages to registration which will be discussed below. A copyright is secured automatically when the work is created. A work is created when it is fixed in a tangible medium (i.e., 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 sounds (excluding, by statutory definition, motion picture soundtracks), such as cassette tapes, CDs, or vinyl disks. 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.