A lot of people are interested in copyright law, for a lot of different reasons. Maybe you’re looking to buy exclusive rights to a song you wrote. Maybe you want to download copyrighted songs on the Internet. Whatever the case, there aren’t any hard and fast rules about copyrights – the reality is copyright law is complicated and extensive. But here are some frequently asked questions to help you better understand copyright and where you fit into it all.
· What can be copyrighted?
Essentially, any creation that shows skill, originality and effort was put into it can be copyrighted. Short stories, novels, handbooks, software, video games, radio broadcasts, songs, recordings, poems, etc… there isn’t much that’s off limits. You can’t copyright a mere idea though. Copyright is focused on the form of expression and not necessarily the basic content. As well, trademarks and patents cover some territory that copyrights don’t, like inventions and logos.
· What do you get out of a copyright?
You get exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and display the work and enforce the law if another person or entity infringes on these rights. As well, you can always sell and negotiate these rights too.
· How do you get these special rights?
Well, you may already have them and not realize it. You don’t have to register your copyright with the US Patent Office in order to benefit from it in a court of law or in other situations. However, if you do register a copyright, it’s just easier to defend it as you simply have hard evidence of your copyright! Luckily, copyright law comes into play automatically. For instance, if you just wrote a song, you have the rights to it already – whether you actively pursue a formal copyright or not!
· Is my copyright protected overseas?
For the most part – yes. The United States and many other countries decided to standardize copyright law and respect each other’s policies. However, this doesn’t include every country. Make sure to find out what countries are in line with the U.S before you conduct International business.
· What’s the difference between a trademark and a copyright?
Copyright is concerned with forms of expression, like a music or literary work or perhaps a photo. However, if you’re trying to make your band name official or promote an advertising slogan, you’ll need to trademark it – not copyright it.
· Is filesharing illegal?
Filesharing, in itself, is not illegal. This is why operators of file sharing programs are typically not doing anything wrong. However, it’s when the files shared contain copyrighted material that it gets a lot more problematic. Yes, sharing a copyrighted song over the Internet is against the law!
Now that you’ve got the basics out of the way, you can begin the process of preregistration and registration of your copyright if you so choose. You can register your copyright with the US Patent Office. All you’ll need to do is fill out some paperwork, submit the copy in question, and have about $45 on hand.