Copyright is basically a list of rights that a creator acquires when he or she brings a certain work into being. It is vested automatically to anyone who establishes an original work of authorship – for example, it could be a literary work, a song, a movie or software.

When having the copyrights to a certain piece of work, you naturally obtain the right to reproduce it, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies, and to perform and display the work publicly.

Copyright allows the owner to choose the ways that his or her copyrighted works are made available to the public. These rights can either be used or licensed, and the primary objective of it is to induce and reward authors. By granting certain exclusive rights to the creators, they are able to benefit economically from them, while the audience simultaneously receives the benefit of the creative works at the same time.

Copyright law is designed to enrich the general public through access to creative works. However, it is important to note that it does not impose an obligation upon creators to make their copyrighted works available.

The three basic requirements that a piece of work must meet in order to be able to use copyrights are originality, creativity, and the ‘fixation requirement’. Unlike the ‘protection under patent’ or ‘trademark law’ requirements, very few works that fall within the subject matter of copyright don’t manage to satisfy all three of these conditions. 

The basis for copyright protection stems directly from the U.S. Constitution, which states that securing the exclusive rights of authors promotes the overall scientific, artistic, and cultural progress. While the copyright owner is not obliged to register his or her work with the U.S. Copyright Office to obtain copyright protection, there are numerous additional benefits associated with it.

It’s worth knowing that under some circumstances, anyone can use a work without getting the copyright owner’s permission or paying the copyright owner to use it (a.k.a ‘fair use’). 

Duration of Copyright Protection

In most cases, a copyrighted work is protected for the entire length of the author’s life, plus another seventy years. If the work is the result of a joint contribution, this legal protection is then granted for the length of the life of the last surviving joint creator, plus another 70 years in addition.

Works made for hire, anonymous and pseudonymous works, are protected for a term of either 95 years from the year of its first publication or 120 years from the year of creation. When the term of protection expires, it enters into the public domain.

Have another view, an anecdote that you would like to share, or just a question for the author? Feel free to comment below!

in Designer Resources Definitions
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