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Copyright Basics

Rights of a Copyright Holder:

17 U.S.C. 106 grants six exclusive rights to copyright owners in their copyrighted works: (1) the right to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonerecords; (2) the right to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work; (3) the right to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending; (4) the right to perform the copyrighted work publicly in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, motion pictures, and other audiovisual works; (5) the right to display the copyrighted work 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; (6) the right to perform the copyrighted work publicly by  means of a digital audio transmission in the case of sound recordings

Visual artists also have additional rights of attribution and integrity to their work(s) as granted by 17 U.S.C. 106A. Authors of visual works have a right to claim authorship of that work and prevent the use of their name as the author of any work of visual art, which they did not create. Authors of visual works have a right to prevent the use of his or her name as the author of the work of visual art in the event of distortion, mutilation, or other modification of the work, which would harm their reputation. Finally, visual artists also have the right to prevent any intentional distortion, mutilation, or other modification of that work which would harm his/her reputation, and any intentional distortion, mutilation, or modification of that work

Scope of Copyright Protection:

A copyright protects a copyright holder’s exclusive rights to an original work of authorship. The work must be fixed in a tangible form of expression and must be within one of 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.

Limits of Copyright Protection:

First, works that have not been fixed in a tangible form cannot be copyrighted. For example, while ordinarily choreographic works can be copyrighted, they cannot be if it has not been recorded in a tangible expression.

Second, titles, names, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols, designs, and the similar are not copyrightable. These things generally fall under the protection of trademark law, not copyright law.

Third, ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices cannot be copyrighted. Generally, anything that has a utilitarian purpose cannot be copyrighted. Exceptions exist for works that are utilitarian in nature, but were designed with the aesthetic concerns as the primary consideration.

Finally, works that consist entirely of information that is common property in the public domain or is purely factual cannot be copyrighted.

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