Southern California is bursting at the seams with industries that center on artistic expression and creative intellectual property. California is the number one producer of movies, television shows and certain types of music, and is definitely the place to be for high-end fashion trends, futuristic building design and software innovation. All of these industries are able to thrive because of the intellectual property rights associated with copyright protection.
What is a Copyright?
An original work that was created independently by the author and has been fixed in a tangible medium of expression is eligible for a copyright. A copyright is designed as an exclusive right to use, make copies and distribute the work in question for a set amount of time so that the creator of the work has an opportunity to derive wealth from his or her original creative work. Copyrights are limited in time, and the length of protection depends on certain factors. But as a general rule, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author, and then for an additional 70 years after that.
What Types of Creative Works Are Eligible for a Copyright?
Many types of creative original works are copyright eligible, including:
- Musical compositions and sheet music
- Musical performances
- Theatrical performances
- Software code
- Architectural structures
However, copyright protection only extends to the fixed expression of the work, and does not apply to the general idea behind the work. Facts, titles, recipes and names also cannot be copyrighted, as well as anything that is derived from completely public knowledge sources that lack original authorship, such as standard calendars and any standard weight and measurement chart or scale.
Furthermore, the types of things that can be protected under other categories of intellectual property rights, such as patents or trademarks, are copyright ineligible. Namely, processes, machines, procedures, methods and systems squarely fall into the realm of patent protection, while symbols, short phrases, slogans and stylistic font or coloring associated with a business, product, or service clearly fall within the scope of trademark protection.
Obtaining Copyright Protection
Copyright protection is specifically provided for in the United States Constitution. A copyright is created the moment an original creative work is fixed, or recorded, in a tangible medium. However, your copyright protection is not public knowledge until you register it with the Library of Congress. In order to bring a lawsuit for infringement of your work in the United States, you must have registered your copyright, thus making it known to the public, prior to the infringement. You are only able to sue for infringement that occurs after the date that your work has been registered.
When Can Someone Use A Copyrighted Work Without Permission?
There are limited circumstances in which someone else may use copyrighted material; these situations are called copyright infringement safe havens, or “fair use.” While fair use is provided for under copyright law, the law is not terribly specific as to what defines fair use of copyrighted material. As such, over the years the courts have shaped the present-day meaning of fair use exceptions. A few of the more clear cut examples of fair use include use:
- For parody purposes;
- For commentary and criticism purposes, with proper attribution to the original author and use of quotation marks; or
- For use by non-profit organizations, educational purposes or personal use in small amounts, i.e., the use is not to derive economic gain.
A registered copyright can be immensely valuable to you or your business if someone attempts to copy your original creative work without permission. The experienced copyright attorneys at the Law Office of Kenechi R. Agu have procured many copyrights for our clients over the years and have aggressively defended against copyright infringement on our clients’ behalf. Intellectual property rights are important for maintaining a successful business. We at the Law Office of Kenechi R. Agu are here to help you make the most of your intellectual property.