What is copyright?

Your product and its packaging, advertising brochures or instructions are protected by copyright. All that is required, as the law states, is for the work to be fixed in a tangible medium. This means that as soon as you put pen to paper or press the record button, your original work is protected. Loss of your unique work may also result in loss of any competitive advantage that you may have over your competitors. It is always best to protect your original work.

Copyright Protection in the US Constitution:

Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and the protection for copyright is provided by the Title 17 of the U.S. Code. Copyrights are granted for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression and cover both published and unpublished works. 17 U.S.C. § 102 states:

-STATUTE-

(a) Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories:

           
  1. literary works;
  2.        
  3. musical works, including any accompanying words;
  4.        
  5. dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
  6.        
  7. pantomimes and choreographic works;
  8.        
  9. pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
  10.        
  11. motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
  12.        
  13. sound recordings; and
  14.        
  15. architectural works.

(b) In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

It is important to note that copyright protects "the expression of an idea" in any of the expression media described in section 102(a), not the idea itself. The rights of the copyright owner include reproducing the work in copies or phonorecords; preparing derivative works based upon the work; distributing copies or phonorecords of the works to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, or lending; performing the work publicly, and displaying the work publicly (Section 106 of the title 17).

Ownership of copyright:

While the copyright owner has exclusive rights, there are certain exemptions, such as the doctrine of "fair use" as stated in section 107. Additionally, according to the "first-sale doctrine", if you buy a book or painting, you can resell your book or painting, however you cannot reproduce it.

Protect your copyright:

Copyright is the property of the author or those deriving their rights through the author. Authors of joint work are co-owners of the copyright in the work, unless there is an agreement between or among them. However, for works created by an employee—or "work made for hire"—the employer, not the employee, owns the copyright.

Copyright protection is available for all unpublished works, regardless of the nationality or domicile of the author.

Copyright is automatically secured when a work is created, and the work is created when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time. No publication or registration or other action in the copyright office is required to secure a copyright. While the use of a copyright notice is not required, it is often beneficial. Use of notice informs the public that the work is protected by copyright, identifies the copyright owner, and shows the year of first publication. The use of the copyright notice is the responsibility of the copyright owner and does not require advance permission from, or registration with, the Copyright Office. The notice for visually perceptible copies should contain: the symbol ©—"the letter C in a circle"; the year of first publication of the work; and the name of the owner of copyright in the work or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized, or generally known alternative designation of the owner. The notice for phonorecords of sound recordings should contain the following three: the symbol: the letter P in a circle; the year of the first publication of the sound recording; and the name of the owner of the copyright in the sound recording or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized, or generally known alternative designation of the owner. The author or copyright owner may want to place a copyright notice on any unpublished copies or phonorecords that leave his or her control (for example: Unpublished work©2010 John Doe).

Protection against unauthorized use of an author's writings in a certain country depends on the national laws of the country and International treaties and conventions between United States and that country.

For additional Information, visit:

http://www.copyright.gov - The official website of the Copyright Office of the United States:

http://www.copyright.gov/title17/ - the Copyright laws of the United States

http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf - Circular 1, Copyright Basics for general discussion of  what is protected under the Copyright law, how to register a Copyright and how and where to get more information about Copyright.

http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ38a.pdf - Circular 38a for International Copyright Relations of the United States.