Copyright Law Act of 1976

The Copyright Law Act of 1976 is the mother of all U.S. copyright laws. It details the rights that all copyright owners have, changed the term life of copyrights, and describes fair use copyright laws. Technological advances and the new movies, radio, and sounds that came with it made this law a necessity since copyright laws hadn’t been updated since 1909 at that point.

What types of work can be protected?

The Act defines “works of authorship” to include:

  • Musical creations
  • Literary creations
  • Dramatic creations (on-stage, on-screen, etc.)
  • Visual arts (pictures, sculptures, graphics, etc.)
  • Motion pictures and audiovisuals
  • Audio recordings
  • Choreography and pantomimes
  • Architectural creations (added in 1990)

What makes Copyright law so special?

United States Copyright law is special because it allows for a creator to become the sole copyright holder of their idea as soon as they produce a tangible copy of it. Remember, ideas cannot be protected! The creator of a work can then exercise exclusive authority over that idea and is deemed the owner of that creation. However, only registration of a Copyright can protect your idea from potential violations. The law also allows for built-in damages and the ability to seek attorneys fees without showing proof of monetary loss.

What happens when someone steals my work? 

These violations are usually enforced in a civil court, but can sometimes be taken to a criminal court in cases of counterfeit. Copyright protection protects you from having your expression of your idea copied, and allows you to do whatever you please with it. You can sell your work, reproduce it, do nothing with it, etc. It is all up to you!

Here are some extra facts to keep in mind when considering a copyright registration:

  • An employer owns the copyright when their employee produces work with their direction. This is called “Works for Hire”
  • The Copyright symbol is not required, so some copyrighted works may not appear to be obviously protected.
  • The expression of the idea is protected, not the idea itself. So, if someone uses your idea for a new kitchen tool but “expresses” it in a different form, no violations have occurred. Remember, ideas cannot be protected!

For more information on copyright law and how YOU can protect your creations, reach out to our office today for a consultation. Be sure to mention this blog post!