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Copyright refers to a set of very specific rules that regulate how others can use the expression of an idea or particular information. In a very basis way, if you turn the word around you will see that copyright is the “right to copy” an original piece of work of another person’s creation.

Copyright is usually limited to a particular duration. Copyright is a form of protection for authors of what is known as “original works of authorship” which includes such things as dramatic works of art, literary works of art, artistic, musical, and other avenues of intellectual expression.

Copyright therefore pertains to such things as songs, stories, books, plays, paintings and the list goes on. Copyright protection is not just available for published pieces of work but to unpublished ones as well.

The Copyright Act of 1976 allows the copyright holder to do certain things with the exclusive rights that belong to them. The act makes it permissible for other individuals to:

  • reproduce the given piece of work in copies
  • prepare "derivative works" that are based on the original work
  • distribute copies of the work to the general public by way of selling them or else the right to transfer the ownership of the work, as well as the right to lend, lease or rent the work
  • perform the work in a public avenue whether it be a literary work such as a poem or story, dramatic, musical, works of choreography as well as audiovisual pieces of work, motion pictures and pantomimes
  • display the work in a public forum such as a sculptural work, a pictorial or a graphic one, as well as literary, dramatic, musical and choreographic pantomimes and allowing the individual images of the given pieces of work to be used as well
  • perform a sound recording publicly in a digital audio format

When does copyright begin and who can claim it?

Copyright is often misunderstood. The copyright of a work belongs to the creator of the work and it begins as soon as the work is created. Contrary to popular belief it is not necessary to register a piece of work at the U.S. Copyright Office for it to be copyrighted protected. Instead it is automatically copyrighted simply because it came into being. However for extra protection it is wise to apply for copyright protection in the United States but there are certain criteria that must be met first. Also contrary to popular belief it is not necessary to include the copyright symbol (c) or(C) with a piece of work in order to secure copyright.

What works can be copyright protected?

Works that are capable of being copyright protected include:

  • literary works
  • musical works
  • dramatic works
  • choreographic works and pantomimes
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works
  • audiovisual works/ motion pictures
  • sculptural works, graphic and pictorial works

On the other hand ideas per se cannot be copyrighted as many people have taken the same idea or concept and turned it into a story, a book, a play, a piece of music, etc.

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