Copyright 101


What is Copyright?

A copyright is a legal right generally affecting who can use, copy, distribute, transform, publicly display, or publicly perform an original work of authorship. Copyright protection is available for many types of works, including literary, musical, and dramatic works. A copyright is exclusive to the author of the work, though the legal author may be a company through an appropriate work-for-hire agreement.

What is the process for obtaining a copyright?

A copyright is created as soon as the original work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression, such as recording a song on a tape, writing the notes on paper, etc. However, for the author to enforce that right (i.e., sue another person for infringement), the copyright must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

How long does a copyright last?

The duration of copyright depends on when the work was created. If it was created on or after January 1, 1978, the copyright will last for the life of the author plus 70 years (if jointly created, 70 years from the death of the last surviving author). If it was created before January 1, 1978, but not published before that date, the copyright term is the same as above. If created before January 1, 1978, and published on or before December 31, 2002, copyright protection will last at least until December 31, 2047.