Copyright FAQs for Aritsts

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This handout is meant to provide basic FAQ related to copyright law for artists of any medium. Because we regularly help writers, visual artists, and others, we find these are the most commonly asked questions.

The information in this handout is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.

Because each individual’s situation is unique, please consult an attorney.

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Copyright FAQs for Aritsts

  1. 1. Legal services for technology-based companies Copyright FAQs Do I need to register the copyright in my What is not protected by copyright? work? Ideas that are not fixed to a “tangible medium ofTechnically speaking, no. The law protects your expression”—this means if you have an idea for awork as soon as it is created and fixed in a work, don’t just tell people, write it down, sketch“tangible medium of expression.” This means as it out, etc. so that it is protected. Specifically,soon as you put the idea down on paper it is business names, trade names, an individual’susually protected. However, there are certain name, any inventions, or secret ingredients arelegal benefits of registering your work. not protected by copyright. However, these items may be protected under trademark or patent lawWhy should I register my copyright? or as a trade secret. 1. Certain legal remedies are only allowed when you have a valid copyright What does “public domain” mean? registration. Something is in the “public domain” if: 2. If someone is infringing your work it is 1. It is no longer eligible for copyright easier to protection, or 3. prove your ownership of the work by 2. It failed to meet the initial requirements producing the registration certificate. for copyright protection. 4. It can make licensing your work easier. This means that others may freely use the work 5. It is only $35 if you file via without permission from the creator. You can www.copyright.gov. search the Copyright Office’s database to determine if a work is registered atHow long does copyright last? www.copyright.gov/records/. However, when inGenerally, if the work is created after January 1, doubt, do not assume something is in the public1978, protection lasts for the life of the author domain.plus an additional 70 years. If a work is doneanonymously, under a pseudonym, or as a “work Can I get an international copyright?made for hire” there are differing lengths of There is no such thing as an internationalprotection. copyright. The level of protection that a work will receive in a foreign country is determinedWhat is protected by copyright? by the United States’ agreement with that nationAny creative work, including visual artwork, through certain intentional arrangements, such assuch as paintings and sketches; musical works, the Berne Convention. It is always important tosuch as sheet music and lyrics; written works, determine the specific copyright law of thesuch as books and poems; physical works, such nation you are seeking protection in by visitingas unique architectural designs and sculptures; www.copyright.gov/laws/ and clicking onand computer based works, such as websites and “international copyright relations.”certain coding.What can I do if someone infringes my work?First, ask “do I own a copyright?” If you do, thenconsider requesting, in writing, that the infringerstop using your work and make sure to keep acopy of your letter. You may also be able to filea lawsuit in a federal district court, but consult anattorney to help you determine your rights. _____________________________________________________________________________________ Ascentage Law, PLLC One Broadway, 14th Floor, Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 02142 USA TEL: +1.617.475.1603 www.ascentagelaw.com FAX: +1.617.401.3706
  2. 2. Legal services for technology-based companiesHelpful Legal Books for Artists:The Public Domain: How to Find and Use Copyright Free Writings, Music, Art & Moreby Stephen FishmanGetting Permission: How to License & Clear Copyrighted Materials Online and Offby Richard StimThe Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook Guide to Getting Published: The Essential Guide for Authors by HarryBinghamHow To Protect Your Web Pages: Protecting your Website Content From Illegal Copyby Quick Easy GuidesHow to Register Your Own Copyrightby Mark WardaHelpful Web Resources:The Stanford Copyright & Fair Use site: http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Center for Social Media Fair Use site: http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/fair-useWisco Computing Protecting Your Website:http://www.wiscocomputing.com/articles/protect_web_sites.htmFindlaw’s Copyright site: http://smallbusiness.findlaw.com/copyright/ The information above is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Because each individual’s situation is unique, please consult an attorney. _____________________________________________________________________________________ Ascentage Law, PLLC One Broadway, 14th Floor, Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 02142 USA TEL: +1.617.475.1603 www.ascentagelaw.com FAX: +1.617.401.3706

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