As all writers, artists, and other creative types know, copyright law is essential to protecting their work from misuse or appropriation. While the internet can be a magnificent tool for sharing our work and finding an audience, it also leaves us more vulnerable to plagiarism. While the more complicated copyright issues will require an attorney who is a copyright law specialist, there are some basic things you should understand about copyright law as it applies to technology law.
- The definition of copyright. The United States defines a copyright as, “a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.” A copyright provides the owner exclusive rights to reproduce, adapt, perform, display, and profit from the work. Copyright protects the expression of an idea in a variety of mediums including but not limited to writing, illustrations, movies, songs, and technology law. Copyright does not, however, protect ideas themselves. Certain ideas, methods, and discoveries may be eligible for a trademark or patent, but copyright concerns itself solely with the original expression of those things.
- Obtaining copyright protection. The moment you create anything in “a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device,” your copyright protection begins. Simply put, once you have written, recorded, illustrated, or documented your work, you establish ownership of that work. Since 1989, it is no longer required by law to include a notice of copyright, but it is strongly recommended. Depending on the medium and its publication status a notice of copyright is signified in the following ways:
–For published, “visually perceptible” works: © 2011 Jane Doe
–For published sound recordings: ? 2011 Jane Doe
–For unpublished works: Unpublished © 2011 Jane Doe or Unpublished ? 2011 Jane DoeIf you want the full protection that copyright law provides, however, you should register your work with your government’s copyright agency. In the United States, the application itself is relatively easy and the fee is nominal, though it may take some time before you