Copyright is legal protection given to original creative and intellectual work of authors or creators which allows them to control their work. This protection exists to provide fair compensation to authors/creators and was implemented in order to promote creation of new works.
For a work to be protected by copyright law, it must be an idea that has been expressed and fixed in some sort of medium. The expression has to be original. To be considered original, there must be a “modicum of creativity” in how it has been expressed. In other words, once you create an original work, and fix it on paper, in clay, or on the drive of your computer, so that the work can be reproduced in some format, then the work is considered copyrightable. Therefore, copyright law protects a wide and diverse array of materials. Books, journals, photographs, works of visual art and sculpture, music, sound recordings, computer programs, websites, film, architectural drawings, choreography and many other materials are within the reach of copyright law. If you can see it, read it, hear it, or watch it, it likely is captured by copyright.
Works are protected automatically, without copyright notice or registration
Copyright protectable works receive instant and automatic copyright protection at the time that they are created. U.S. law today does not require placing a notice of copyright on the work or registering the work with the U.S. Copyright Office. The law provides some important benefits if you do use the notice or register the work, but you are the copyright owner even without these formalities.
The United States copyright law is contained in chapters 1 through 8 and 10 through 12 of title 17 of the United States Code. Other countries also have their own laws which may apply, depending on the source of the material.
What Does Copyright Ownership Mean?
Owners hold specific rights but not all rights
The law grants to copyright owners a series or bundle of specified rights:
Reproduction of works
Distribution of copies
Making of derivative works
Public performance and display of works.
Copyright owners may also have rights to prevent anyone from circumventing technological protection systems that control access to the works.
Can give or sell their rights to others.
Can allow public non-exclusive uses to others.
What is Copyright Infringement?
Copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.
What Are the Penalties?
The infringer pays the actual dollar amount of damages and profits. The law provides a range from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed. Infringer pays for all attorneys' fees and court costs.
Are All Works Copyright Protected?
Some works lack copyright protection, and they are freely available for use without the limits and conditions of copyright law. Copyright eventually expires too. When a work lacks copyright protection or where copyright has expires, it is said that the work enter the public domain. Works produced by the U.S. government are not copyrightable. Copyright also does not protect facts, ideas, discoveries, and methods.
What Uses of Copyrighted Works Are Allowed?
Activities within "fair use" for classroom usage are not infringements
Uses are allowed with permission from the owner
Uses from an implied and express license for Internet materials
If your use of a copyrighted work is not within one of the statutory exceptions, you may need to secure permission from the copyright owner. A non-exclusive permission does not need to be in writing, but a signed writing is almost always good practice. The permission may come directly from the copyright owner, or through its representative agent or copyright agency.