Defining Copyright

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Copyright can seem complicated and yet is so important to understand so that one doesn’t infringe on another’s rights.

By definition, copyright is the set of exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work. These rights can be licensed, transferred and/or assigned. Copyright lasts for a certain time period after which the work is said to enter the public domain. Copyright applies to a wide range of works that are substantive and fixed in a medium. Some jurisdictions also recognize “moral rights” of the creator of a work, such as the right to be credited for the work.

Copyright is literally, the right to copy, though in legal terms “the right to control copying” is more accurate. The term copyright means one has exclusive statutory rights to exercise control over copying and other exploitation of the works for a specific period of time. The copyright owner is given two sets of rights: an exclusive, positive right to copy and exploit the copyrighted work, or license others to do so, and a negative right to prevent anyone else from doing so without consent, with the possibility of legal remedies if they do.

When one wanted a copyright, it initially meant they were granted the exclusive right to copy a book or made allowances for anybody to use the book for various purposes such as making a translation, adaptation or public performance.  At the time print on paper was the only format in which most text based copyrighted works were distributed.

The type of works, which were subject to copyright, expanded over time. Initially copyright only covered books. Then copyright law was revised in the 19th century to include maps, charts, engravings, prints, musical compositions, dramatic works, photographs, paintings, drawings and sculptures. Developments in technology again added to these and now include motion pictures, computer programs, sound recordings, Choreography and architectural works.

The purpose of copyright primarily has its basis in commerce but it is also for the sake of controlling one’s creations. Under the Berne copyright convention, which almost all major nations have signed, every creative work is copyrighted the moment it is fixed in tangible form. No notice is necessary, though it helps legal cases. No registration is necessary, though it’s needed later to sue. The copyright lasts until 70 years after the author dies. Facts and ideas can’t be copyrighted, only expressions of creative effort.

Copyright law is different from country to country, and a copyright notice is required in about 20 countries for a work to be protected under copyright.  Before 1989 all published works in the US had to contain a copyright notice, the (c) symbol followed by the publication date and copyright owner’s name, to be protected by copyright. This is no longer the case and use of a copyright notice is now optional in the US, though they are still used.

Having a copyright on your work is not a complicated process, just one that requires a little research and knowledge.

Steven Medvin is the Executive Director of SMP Advance Funding, LLC, which provides lawsuit funding to individuals who need a lawsuit loan for pending lawsuits. For more information please visit: http://www.smpadvance.com

10 thoughts on “Defining Copyright”

  1. Can I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

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