What is a Copyright?
Copyright law is a legal framework that grants creators of original works exclusive rights to their creations. A copyright, therefore, is the “legal license” which grants the owner of an original work exclusive rights to that work, including the right to reproduce, distribute, and display the work.
The federal law that governs copyright in the United States is the Copyright Act of 1976. This law outlines the rights of copyright owners, the conditions under which those rights can be exercised, and the procedures for registering and enforcing copyrights. The Copyright Act is administered by the U.S. Copyright Office, which is part of the Library of Congress. The Act has been amended several times over the years, most recently in 1998 with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which addressed issues related to the internet and digital technologies.
Please bear in mind, the fact that an individual created a given work does not mean that he still necessarily is the “claimant”, or owner of the work – this is certainly the case when one purchases the rights to use a given piece of work from the original creator of the work (or in a “work for hire” situation).
Copyright law applies to a wide range of creative works, including literature, music, art, and architecture. To be eligible for copyright protection, a work must be original and fixed in a tangible form. This means that the work must be the product of the creator’s own skill and effort, and it must be recorded in some way, such as being written down or recorded on film.
What is a Poor Man’s Copyright?
You may be familiar with the term, “Poor Man’s Copyright” – This is simply clever way of describing a method that some people use to try to protect their copyrighted works without actually registering the copyright. This typically involves mailing a copy of the work to themselves through the post office, with the idea being that the postmarked envelope will serve as evidence of the date of creation. However, this method is not recognized by the U.S. Copyright Office or the courts, and it does not provide the same level of legal protection as an actual copyright registration.
Is a Copyright Automatic?
In many countries, copyright protection is automatic and does not require registration or any other formalities. As soon as an original work is created, it is protected by copyright laws. This means that the creator of the work owns the exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and sell the work, and to create derivative works based on the original.
This is not the case in the United States, where Copyrights can only be enforced once the Copyright is registered with the United States Copyright Office.
How Do I File a Copyright Application with the Copyright Office?
To file a copyright application, follow these steps:
- First, check to see if your work is eligible for copyright protection. In general, original works of authorship such as literature, music, and artwork are eligible for copyright protection. Please be advised, just because you “came up” with the work does not mean it satisfied the rather stringent criteria for registration. Please see the further down in this article a section explaining the circumstances under which Copyright Applications are rejected.
- Next, register for a copyright.gov account, which will allow you to submit your application and any supporting materials online.
- Once you have created an account, you can begin the application process by selecting the appropriate category for your work (such as literary work or musical work) and providing the necessary information about your work. This may include details about the title, author, and date of creation.
- After you have provided all of the required information, you will need to pay the filing fee. How much are Copyright Fees? The cost to file a copyright application with the United States Copyright Office varies depending on the type of application you are filing and whether you are filing online or on paper. Here are the current fees for some common types of copyright applications:
- Standard online application for copyright registration of a single work: $55
- Standard online application for copyright registration of a collection of works: $85
- Standard online application for copyright registration of a sound recording: $50
- Standard online application for copyright registration of a supplementary registration: $50
- Standard paper application for copyright registration of a single work: $85
It’s important to note that these fees are subject to change and may be different if you are filing a different type of application or if you are eligible for a reduced fee. You can find a complete list of current fees on the Copyright Office website.
In addition to the application fee, you may also need to pay additional fees if you need to file additional documents or make changes to your application. You may also need to pay fees to expedite your application or to register additional works.
- Once the fee has been paid, you can submit your application and any supporting materials, such as copies of the work you are seeking to copyright. It is important to note that the Copyright Office will not review the content of your work to determine whether it is eligible for copyright protection. Rather, they will only process the application and ensure that it is complete and meets all of the necessary requirements.
- After you have submitted your application, you will receive a confirmation email and a tracking number, which you can use to check the status of your application. The Copyright Office typically processes applications within several months, but the exact time frame will vary depending on the workload and other factors.
- If your application is approved, you will receive a certificate of Registration, which serves as official proof of your copyright. You can use this certificate to assert your rights and protect your work from unauthorized use.
Overall, the process for filing a copyright application is relatively straightforward, but it is important to carefully follow all of the steps and provide all of the necessary information and materials. By taking the time to properly register your work, you can ensure that it is protected and that you can exercise your rights as the copyright owner.
Why Was My Copyright Rejected?
A copyright application may be rejected for a variety of reasons. Some common reasons for rejection include the following:
- The work is not eligible for copyright protection. Only certain types of works are eligible for copyright, such as original literary, musical, or artistic works. Works that are not eligible for copyright include ideas, facts, and government documents.
- The work has already been registered by someone else. Copyrights are granted on a first-come, first-served basis, so if someone else has already registered the same work, your application will be rejected.
- The work is not sufficiently original. In order to be eligible for copyright, a work must be the original creation of the author and must show a minimal amount of creativity. If the work is too similar to another work, or if it lacks originality, it may be rejected.
- The application is incomplete or inaccurate. In order to register a copyright, you must provide certain information about the work, such as the title, author, and date of creation. If this information is missing or incorrect, your application may be rejected.
- The work is in the public domain. Works that are in the public domain are not eligible for copyright because they are considered to be part of the common cultural heritage and are available for anyone to use. If a work is in the public domain, your application will be rejected.
If your copyright application is rejected, you may be able to resubmit it with the necessary corrections. It is important to carefully review the requirements for copyright registration and to provide accurate and complete information in your application.
How Long Does a Copyright Last?
Copyright protection is not infinite. Copyright protection typically lasts for the life of the creator plus a certain number of years after their death, after which the work becomes part of the public domain and can be used freely by anyone. The length of copyright protection varies by country, and may be affected by factors such as the type of work and when it was created. More specifically, In the United States, the length of copyright protection depends on when the work was created: For works created on or after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the creator plus an additional 70 years after their death. For anonymous or pseudonymous works, and works made for hire, the copyright protection lasts for 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever is shorter.
It’s important to note that these are general rules, and there are many specific factors that can affect the length of time that copyright lasts for a particular work. If you have specific questions about the copyright term for a particular work, please reach out to one of our Copyright Attorneys to discuss further.
Remember, in order to protect your copyrights and have the full legal benefits of ownership, it is necessary to register your works with the U.S. Copyright Office.
How to Copyright a Phrase
It is NOT possible to copyright a phrase or slogan, even assuming that the phrase is used in connection with a product or service and that it meets certain other requirements. Why? Because phrases fall under the unique domain of Trademark Law. Remember, a copyright is a legal protection that covers original works of authorship, such as literary, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. The purpose of copyright is to give creators of these works the exclusive right to control the reproduction, distribution, and use of their creations. Phrases, however, are designed to serve as catchy brand identifiers and therefore fall outside of the purview of Copyright law.
Copyrights vs. Trademarks
Copyrights and trademarks are two forms of intellectual property protection that serve different purposes. A copyright protects original works of authorship, such as books, music, and films. It gives the owner of the copyright the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, and display the work. A trademark, on the other hand, protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs that identify the source of a product or service. It prevents others from using a confusingly similar mark in a way that would likely cause confusion among consumers.
One key difference between copyrights and trademarks is the type of intellectual property they protect. Copyrights apply to creative works, such as novels, songs, and paintings, while trademarks apply to identifying marks, such as logos and brand names. Copyrights are intended to protect the artistic expression of an idea, while trademarks are intended to protect the commercial value of a brand.
Another difference between copyrights and trademarks is the duration of protection. Copyrights generally last for the life of the author plus a certain number of years after their death, depending on the type of work and the date of creation. Trademarks, on the other hand, can last indefinitely as long as the mark is in use and the owner continues to renew the registration.
Furthermore, a central difference between these two forms of intellectual property is the process for obtaining protection for each respective category. In order to obtain a copyright, an author must create a work and then register it with the U.S. Copyright Office. A trademark, on the other hand, can be obtained through use in commerce, without the need for registration. However, registering a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office provides additional legal benefits, such as the ability to bring a lawsuit for infringement.
Finally, while copyrights and trademarks are both forms of intellectual property protection, they serve different purposes and have different requirements for obtaining and maintaining protection. Copyrights protect original works of authorship, while trademarks protect identifying marks used in commerce. It is important to understand the differences between these two forms of protection in order to effectively protect your intellectual property rights.
What Are The Benefits of Having a Copyright?
Once a work is eligible for copyright protection, the creator automatically has exclusive rights to the work. This means that only the creator has the right to reproduce, distribute, and display the work, unless they give permission to others to do so. These rights are known as “exclusive rights,” and they can be sold or transferred to others.
One of the key features of copyright law is that it provides creators with the ability to control how their works are used and distributed. This means that if someone else wants to use a copyrighted work, they must first obtain permission from the copyright owner. In some cases, the copyright owner may choose to license their work, which allows others to use the work in specific ways for a specific period of time. In other cases, the copyright owner may choose to sell their rights to the work altogether.
In addition to providing creators with control over their works, copyright law also provides a financial incentive for creative endeavors. By giving creators exclusive rights to their works, copyright law allows them to profit from their creations. This can provide a valuable source of income for creators, and it can help to support further creative endeavors.
Why Do I Need to Register My Copyright with the Copyright Office?
In the case of Varsity Brands, Inc. v. Star Athletica, LLC, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a valid copyright registration is required in order to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement. This decision affirmed the longstanding practice of requiring copyright registration before filing a lawsuit, and it helps to ensure that only those who have taken the necessary steps to protect their rights can pursue legal action for infringement.
Thus, if you determine that someone has stolen your song, for example, even though you automatically “have” the copyright to the song from the moment that you put it in material form, in order file a lawsuit for copyright infringement, you must first register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. A central reason for this requirement is that the registration process allows for sturdier and more delineated claims as to the scope and ownership rights of the copyrighted work. It also allows the plaintiff to avail him/herself to certain statutory damages and attorney’s fees in court. Finally, while it is not technically required to register your copyright before you publish your work, it is highly recommended, and will allow you to protect your rights and make it easier to enforce them if someone infringes on your copyright.
A copyright attorney is a lawyer who specializes in copyright law and can help individuals and businesses protect their creative works. They can assist with a wide range of copyright-related issues, including registering copyrights, enforcing copyrights against infringement, and licensing copyrighted works. A copyright attorney can also provide legal advice on issues related to fair use, public domain, and other areas of copyright law. In addition, they may represent clients in court if a copyright dispute goes to trial. At Cohn Legal, PLLC, our goal is to provide you with the most robust and comprehensive protection possible given your unique intellectual property. Please contact us for a free Consultation.
File Your Copyright Application Now or Regret it Later
Ultimately, the purpose of copyright is to encourage creativity and innovation by giving creators control over how their works are used and distributed. Have you written a new song? Drafted a novel? Made a movie? Protect it now.
NEED HELP WITH A COPYRIGHT APPLICATION ?: SPEAK TO A COPYRIGHT LAWYER
If you need help with an existing or new Copyright Application, please reach out to us. Our Copyright Attorneys would love to chat and discuss your case.