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What Is a Copyright?


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An overview of the basics of US copyright law for entrepreneurs, business people, and creative professionals. "What Is a Copyright?" includes the following:
A brief definition of copyright.
Definitions of the other forms of intellectual property (trademark, patent, and trade secrets).
How copyrights are acquired.
What rights go along with a copyright.
Copyright registration.
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What Is a Copyright?

  1. 1.  What Is a Copyright? © 2014 David Lizerbram & Associates®
  2. 2. © 2014 David Lizerbram & Associates® What Is a Copyright? 2 When Should I Ask This Question? • Any time you’ve created an expressive or creative work (for business or pleasure), you’re entering the world of intellectual property. • This presentation will provide some basic guidelines for the copyright process. • Always do your due diligence and consult a professional if you run into any questions or challenges.
  3. 3. © 2014 David Lizerbram & Associates® What Is a Copyright? 3 Other Forms of Intellectual Property (We’ll Get to Copyrights on the Next Slide) • A Trademark is anything that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods or services of one party from those of others. • A Patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor. • A Trade Secret is a piece of information, not generally known or reasonably ascertainable, that gives a business an economic advantage over its competitors.
  4. 4. © 2014 David Lizerbram & Associates® What Is a Copyright? 4 OK, so What Is a Copyright?  The U.S. Copyright Office defines copyright as “a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression.”  Copyright can be understood as the right to control who makes copies of your work.  The Copyright Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 8) empowers Congress “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”  Congress created several copyright laws. As of January 1, 1978, copyright law in the U.S. is governed by the Copyright Act of 1976, as amended.
  5. 5. © 2014 David Lizerbram & Associates® What Is a Copyright? 5 What Types of Things are Covered by Copyright Law? Under Section 102 of the Copyright Act, the following 8 categories of works are covered: 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 (as of 1990).
  6. 6. © 2014 David Lizerbram & Associates® What Is a Copyright? 6 What Rights Are Included in a Copyright?  The Copyright Act grants six exclusive rights to the holder of a copyright: 1. The right to produce copies or reproductions of the work and to sell those copies (including, typically, electronic copies). 2. The right to import or export the work. 3. The right to create derivative works (works that adapt the original work). 4. The right to perform or display the work publicly. 5. The right to sell or assign these rights to others. 6. The right to transmit or display the work by radio or video.  Only the copyright holder (or holders) enjoy those rights. They can therefore prevent others from doing anything on that list without permission.
  7. 7. © 2014 David Lizerbram & Associates® What Is a Copyright? 7 How and When Is a Copyright Acquired?  Copyright applies the moment a copyrightable work “is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”  That means that as soon as you create something that’s copyrightable – and it’s in a form that someone else could perceive (i.e. it’s out of your head) – you own the copyright.  Technically, no further steps need to be taken. However, as we’ll see shortly, copyright registration allows one to take advantage of the rights embodied in copyright and grants certain additional privileges.
  8. 8. © 2014 David Lizerbram & Associates® What Is a Copyright? 8 Copyright Registration  The US Copyright Office allows for the registration of works subject to copyright. This provides public notice of your copyright claim.  Several advantages encourage copyright owners to register their copyrightable works, including:  Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim.  Registration allows you to file a copyright infringement lawsuit.  Registration may establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.  Statutory damages and attorney’s fees may be available to the registered copyright owner in court actions. Only actual damages and profits are available to the copyright owner who doesn’t register.  Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service for protection against importation of infringing copies.
  9. 9. © 2014 David Lizerbram & Associates® What Is a Copyright? 9 How Long Does Copyright Last?  Unlike trademarks, copyrights don’t last forever.  For works created by individuals, the current term is the life of the author plus 70 years.  For works created by corporations, the term can be either 95 or 120 years, depending on when the work is published.  Once the term has expired, the copyrightable work is in the public domain.
  10. 10. © 2014 David Lizerbram & Associates® What Is a Copyright? 10 The Public Domain? What’s That?  The public domain refers to works that are not subject to any copyright protection. Generally speaking, a work in the public domain is available for anyone to use.  Careful: It can be very difficult to determine if a work is in the public domain; lengthy and expensive court cases often deal with this very issue.  Another word of caution – a work in the public domain may still contain protected trademarks. So if an old Mickey Mouse cartoon was to fall into the public domain, you may be able to make a copy of that cartoon, but you would not necessarily be able to reproduce the Disney logo.
  11. 11. © 2014 David Lizerbram & Associates® What Is a Copyright? 11 How Do I Use the © Symbol & the Date?  You don’t need a Federal Copyright Registration to use the © copyright symbol.  Any time you believe in good faith that you own the copyright in a work – for example, if you created it or acquired the rights through a license, assignment, or other means – you can use the symbol.  The preferred format is: © Date Your Name/Name of Your Company
  12. 12. © 2014 David Lizerbram & Associates® What Is a Copyright? 12 Prepared and Presented by: David Lizerbram, Esq. David Lizerbram & Associates® Twitter: @LizerbramLaw Direct Phone: (619) 517-2272 4080 Centre Street, Suite 205 San Diego, California 92103
  13. 13. © 2014 David Lizerbram & Associates® What Is a Copyright? 13 FINAL NOTE: THIS PRESNTATION IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE I am not your attorney. Nothing in this presentation should be taken as legal advice. This is simply general information that may be helpful. Consult an attorney if you have any specific questions or concerns.