Legal Definition Of Copyright

Education About Copyright Basics


What is copyright, in layman's terms? In the international law, copyright law extends certain protections for published and unpublished "works of authorship." This covers a variety of forms of expression, some of which are obvious - books, movies, songs - and some of which are not as well known outside their professional fields - computer code, software, architectural design. 
Copyright basics,legal definition of copyright, office paper

Difference between copyright, patent and trademark

The deciding factor is that the work must be fixed in a "tangible mode of expression." Choreography that has not been notated or recorded, for example, cannot be copyrighted until it is fixed in a durable medium. You can't copyright ideas. This requirement is one of the factors that distinguish copyright protection from the protection extended by a patent or a trademark. A patent is meant to cover an invention or a discovery in the abstract, rather than a concrete expression of an idea. 
For example, a patent is used to protect the method of manufacturing specifically as it safeguards the technological aspects of new or unique methods. In patents one can secure one's unique method of processing whereas in copyright, it gives one an exclusive right to own some idea, expression and even information. Copyrights© claim that the material belongs to some certain person and cannot be used without one's permission.   
Trademarks, on the other hand, are words, phrases or designs used to distinguish the goods of one party from those of others. (Service marks are more or less the same, but distinguish the providers of services; the term "trademark" is often used conversationally to cover service marks as well.) An artistic design is automatically protected by copyright, but can also be trademarked, which offers overlapping, but not identical, legal protection.

What does it mean to be a copyright holder?

A copyright holder has the following exclusive legal rights: 
  • The right to use his or her work, whether for financial gain or otherwise
  • The right to distribute the work or perform the work in public
  • The right to make copies of the work
  • The right to create a derivative work (such as a movie or sequel based off of a book)
  • The right to allow anyone else to exercise these rights
If any of these things are done without the express permission of the copyright holder, it would be considered copyright infringement.

Infringement of Copyright and Fair Use

The copyright law provides for a limited right called fair use, which allows unauthorized use of portions of the copyrighted work for specific purposes. The fair use privilege is especially important in allowing study, scholarship, commentary and criticism of copyrighted works.
Infringement of a copyright consists of:
  • Unauthorized reproduction
  • Distribution
  • Adaptation
  • Public performance
  • Public display

What kinds of things cannot be copyrighted?

The three main types of intellectual property, copyrights, trademarks, and patents, are each layers of protection, but the scope of that protection is quite different. Copyright registration is a type of protection available only to works of "original authorship" -- something that has been created by someone -- that are "affixed in a tangible medium" -- something that exists, either physically or digitally.

Some examples of things that do not meet this criteria are: 

  • Names
  • Titles, including book titles (although they could carry a trademark)
  • Short phrases
  • Logos, if they fail to carry any significant authorship
  • Recipes (while instructions might be copyrighted, a list of ingredients and volumes cannot)
  • Blank tables or charts
  • Calendars (but accompanying images can be protected as 2-D Artwork)
  • Inventions (this would be a patent)

In addition, anything taken from the public domain (older works whose copyrights have expired; works dedicated specifically to the public domain) or considered public knowledge (schedules of sporting events; standard measurements) would not be eligible for copyright protection.


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