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Copyright Information

General Copyright Information
Annette P. Heller

Copyright is a form of protection provided by U.S. Copyright law to authors of "original works of authorship." The original works of authorship must be fixed in a tangible form of expression and can be published or unpublished. The following are the various categories of copyright works:


    1. literary works - examples include books, poems, training manuals, catalogs etc.
    2. musical works, including any accompanying words
    3. dramatic works, including any accompanying music
    4. pantomimes and choreographic works
    5. pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
    6. motion pictures and other audiovisual works
    7. sound recordings
    8. Computer programs
    9. Advertising and marketing materials

The Copyright Law generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  • To reproduce the work
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work
  • To distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
  • To perform the work publicly or in sound recordings
  • To display the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work

Copyright rights are established by the act of creation. However, in order to enforce ones right, the work must be registered with the United States Copyright Office. The copyright law provides several advantages to encourage copyright owners to register their original works of authorship. Among these advantages are the following:

  • Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim.
  • Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U. S. origin.
  • If made before or within 5 years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.
  • If registration is made within 3 months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney's fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.
  • Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U. S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies.

International Copyright Protection: Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends, basically, on the national laws of that country. However, most countries do offer protection to foreign works under certain conditions, and these conditions have been greatly simplified by international copyright treaties and conventions which the United States is a party to.