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Overview of Copyright Law

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by , 08-19-2011 at 12:46 AM (62055 Views)
Copyright protection applies to any original work of authorship, fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright law does not protect functional aspects of works as that falls to patent law. Copyright law cannot be used to protect any work of the United States Government, i.e. NASA pictures, Supreme Court opinions, or Navy battle plans. Any work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that personís duties may not be copyrighted. Unlike patent law, here it is the creative expression that is protectable, not the ideas themselves. Also unlike patent law, a work does not need to be registered in order to be protected by copyright. However, since being registered increases the damages and provides documentation of a clientís work, almost all copyright attorneys recommend registering for copyright protection and assist clients with doing so.

Copyright protection prohibits anyone but the copyright holder from taking advantage of certain exclusive rights including: the right to make copies, perform or display the work publicly, prepare derivative works, and distribute or sell the work. Any person who does not respect these rights infringes the holderís copyright. Copyright attorneys often assist clients with copyright infringement issues. Copyright infringement is a multidimensional issue. For example, not only must the court determine whether or not there has been copying (by comparing the two works and then examining the facts to see if it is likely the accused infringer came into contact with the clientís work), it also must determine if what was copied was original to the work and therefore protected by the copyright or actually a non-original element within the original work and therefore not protected. Copyright lawyers also need to inform the client if the exception of fair use is going to come into play in their case.

Who holds the copyright is not always clear-cut and copyright attorneys may assist their clients if their copyrights are being threatened under joint authorship or the work for hire doctrine. If there is joint authorship then the copyright holders are co-owners of the copyright with equal, undivided interests in it. To be a joint work each author must contribute copyrightable expressions and show intent to be a joint author when the work is created. Sometimes an author or musician will contribute to a collective work or anthology. When this occurs the author of the collective work will have a thin copyright in the work as a whole, but the authors of the individual sections will still retain their separate copyrights. When a work made for hire is created, the work is prepared by an employee within the scope of her employment and the copyright then vests with the employer. As shown by above, copyright vesting is complex and copyright attorneys are often called in when there is a disagreement as to whom the copyright should belong. Copyright attorneys will also help their clients with licensing their copyrights, if the client has a desire to do so, and will advise their clients on the duration of the copyright, policing the copyright, and the formalities of the copyright.
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Intellectual Property , Copyrights