Summary: Check out the following 14 points if you want to be a copyright attorney.
- Copyright infringements occur on an almost daily basis.
- This is what makes the practice area of copyright law so important throughout not just the area of law, but most areas of modern day productivity.
- If you have an interest in the copyright law practice area, continue reading this article to find out what the 14 most important aspects of copyright law are.
- What is copyright law?
Copyright law is needed to protect innovators, whether they be small or large, once they create a product of their own that is exclusive unto them.
As an article
about copyright law published on Find Law states, copyright law in the U.S. is based on the Copyright Act of 1976, a federal statute that went into effect on January 1, 1978.
States cannot enact their own laws to protect the same rights as the rights provided by the Copyright Act. For example, a state cannot pass a law to extend copyright protection on works in the state beyond the term of protection given by the Copyright Act.
And while state "copyright" laws exist, they are limited to works that cannot be protected under federal copyright law.
- What types of works are protected by copyright law?
Copyright law protects "works of authorship." The Copyright Act states that works of authorship include the following types of works:
- Literary works. Novels, nonfiction prose, poetry, newspaper articles and newspapers, magazine articles and magazines, computer software, software documentation and manuals, training manuals, manuals, catalogs, brochures, ads (text), and compilations such as business directories
- Musical works. Songs, advertising jingles, and instrumentals.
- Dramatic works. Plays, operas, and skits.
- Pantomimes and choreographic works. Ballets, modern dance, jazz dance, and mime works.
- Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works. Photographs, posters, maps, paintings, drawings, graphic art, display ads, cartoon strips and cartoon characters, stuffed animals, statues, paintings, and works of fine art.
- Motion pictures and other audiovisual works. Movies, documentaries, travelogues, training films and videos, television shows, television ads, and interactive multimedia works.
- Sound recordings. Recordings of music, sounds, or words.
- Architectural works. Building designs, whether in the form of architectural plans, drawings, or the constructed building itself.
To receive copyright protection, a work must be "original" and must be "fixed" in a tangible medium of expression. Certain types of works are not copyrightable.
The originality requirement is not stringent: A work is original in the copyright sense if it owes its origin to the author and was not copied from some preexisting work. A work can be original without being novel or unique. Keep in mind that only minimal creativity is required to meet the originality requirement.
With originality a work can incorporate preexisting material and still be original. When preexisting material is incorporated into a new work, the copyright on the new work covers only the original material contributed by the author.
Facts owe their origin to no one and so are not original. A compilation of facts (a work formed by collecting and assembling data) is protected by copyright only to the extent of the author's originality in the selection, coordination, and arrangement of the facts. An example of this could be the following:
Ralph created a neighborhood phone directory for his neighborhood by going door-to-door and getting his neighbors' names and phone numbers. The directory's facts (names and phone numbers) are not original. Ralph's selection of facts was not original (he "selected" every household in the neighborhood). His coordination and arrangement of facts (alphabetical order by last name) is routine rather than original. The directory is not protected by copyright.
According to Section 101 of the Copyright Act, a work is "fixed" when it is made "sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than transitory duration." It makes no difference what the form, manner, or medium is. An author can "fix" words, for example, by writing them down, typing them on an old-fashioned typewriter, dictating them into a tape recorder, or entering them into a computer. A live television broadcast is "fixed" if it is recorded simultaneously with the transmission.
- Works That Can’t Be Copyrighted
Works prepared by federal government officers and employees as part of their official duties are not protected by copyright. Consequently, federal statutes (the Copyright Act, for example) and regulations are not protected by copyright. This rule does not apply to works created by state government officers and employees.
The design of a useful article is protected by copyright only if, and to the extent that, the design "incorporates pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of the utilitarian aspects of the article." For example, while a "normal" belt buckle is not protected, a three-dimensional belt-buckle design with a dolphin shape qualifies for limited protection.
Works that can’t be copyrighted or those for which copyright protection has ended are referred to as "public domain" works.
- Procedure for Getting Protection
Copyright protection arises automatically when an original work of authorship is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Registration with the Copyright Office is optional (but you have to register before you file an infringement suit).
The use of copyright notice is optional for works distributed after March 1, 1989. Copyright notice can take any of these three forms:
© followed by a date and name.
"Copyright" followed by a date and name.
"Copr." followed by a date and name.
- Reproduction Right
The reproduction right is the right to copy, duplicate, transcribe, or imitate the work in fixed form.
- Modification Right
The modification right (also known as the derivative works right) is the right to modify the work to create a new work. A new work that is based on a preexisting work is known as a "derivative work."
- Distribution Right
The distribution right is the right to distribute copies of the work to the public by sale, rental, lease, or lending.
- Public Performance Right
The public performance right is the right to recite, play, dance, act, or show the work at public place or to transmit it to the public. In the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, showing the work's images in sequence is considered "performance."
- Public Display Right
The public display right is the right to show a copy of the work directly or by means of a film, slide, or television image at a public place or to transmit it to the public. In the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, showing the work's images out of sequence is considered "display."
Anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of a copyright owner is an infringer. An example of this is the following:
A developer scanned a photographer's copyrighted photograph, altered the image by using digital editing software, and included the altered version of the photograph in a multimedia work that the developer sold to consumers. If the developer used the photographer's photograph without permission, the developer infringed the photographer's copyright by violating the reproduction right (scanning the photograph), the modification right (altering the photograph), and the distribution right (selling the altered photograph as part of the multimedia work).
A copyright owner can recover actual or, in some cases, statutory damages from an infringer. The federal district courts have the power to issue injunctions (orders) to prevent or restrain copyright infringement and to order the impoundment and destruction of infringing copies.
- Where you as a copyright attorney come in.
As a copyright attorney
, your responsibility is to protect your client and their work against infringers as well as other individuals and entities who want to copy, steal or somehow alter your client’s work.
In order to prove and protect your client’s work, reread number 7 in the above list. If that route has already been taken, it will be up to you to prove your client’s work is indeed theirs with other materials, such as dated letters or transcripts.
In fact anything with a date on can help prove your client’s case that the work in question is truly theirs.
As long as there is innovation, there will always be steady work for copyright attorneys
. The practice is interesting particularly for the fact that copyright attorneys can be exposed to many materials, inventions and other advances.
As a copyright attorney, in this practice area, there’s never a dull moment.
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