A copyright is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the exclusive right to make copies of a creative work, usually for a limited time. Copyright covers a wide range of works, including books, plays, movies, songs, and architectural designs. It is intended to protect the original expression of an idea in these works, not the idea itself.
The owner of a copyright can control how the work is used by others. For example, the owner can give permission for the work to be copied, performed in public, or adapted (made into a different form, such as a movie based on a book). The owner can also sell or transfer the copyright to someone else.
Copyright law is governed by federal law in the United States. The most important law is the Copyright Act of 1976, which gives copyright protection to works created on or after January 1, 1978.
Copyright protection is automatic in the United States. That means that as soon as a work is created, the creator owns the copyright. There is no need to register the work with the copyright office or put a copyright notice on it.
However, there are some benefits to registering a work with the copyright office. For example, if someone infringes on a registered work, the copyright owner can sue for damages and attorneys’ fees.
Copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. For works created by more than one author, the copyright protection lasts for the life of the longest-living author plus 70 years.
After the copyright expires, the work is in the public domain, which means that anyone can use it without getting permission from the copyright owner.
There are some limited exceptions to copyright protection. For example, the “fair use” doctrine allows for the use of copyrighted material for certain limited purposes, such as criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, or scholarship.