What is Copyright? Copyright is an intellectual property right that gives the creator of a work certain exclusive rights to that work. Those rights include the right to reproduce, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute the work, as well as the right to make derivatives of the work. Permission granted by the author to exercise any of these rights is known as a license. The exercise of any of these rights without permission from the author, even if no money is generated from the use, is generally considered copyright infringement.
What may be protected by Copyright?
The author’s unique expression is what is considered protectable. This includes many different types of works, such as:
Musical works (including lyrics and compositions)
Two- and three-dimensional works (such as paintings, photographs, and sculptures)
Motion pictures and audio/visual works
What isn’t protected?
There are many things that are thought to be copyrightable but, in fact, are not. Some examples include:
Names, titles and short phrases (these may, however,protected by Trademark)
Theories, methods and processes
Someone helped me create a work. Who owns it?
It depends. In many instances, when two or more people contribute to a work, they are considered joint authors and co-owners of the work. However, there are other factors which determine this outcome and the entire set of circumstances needs to be evaluated in order to properly ascertain whether this is the case.
Without a written agreement, co-owners share equal rights and responsibilities, regardless of how much each one contributed. This can cause many problems, especially when one of the authors does not realize that he or she is not the sole owner of a work. If you’re unsure, it’s best to consult an attorney to determine the status of the work.
Copyright is a very technical area of law and broad generalizations about any situation regarding copyright are often invalid. It is important to understand that determinations of copyright validity, co-ownership, infringement and other concerns are fact-specific and can only be ascertained after a thorough evaluation of a particular situation by one who is well-versed and experienced in the practice of copyright law.
In addition to being a practicing attorney, Davey Spicciati has been teaching Copyright Law at Full Sail University for the past six years.
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