Copyright Frequently Asked Questions
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  •        What is a copyright?
  •        What forms of expression are protected by copyright?
  •        What forms of expression are not protected by copyright?
  •        How do I get a copyright and what is copyright registration?
  •        Why is copyright registration important?
  •        How long does a copyright last?
What is a Copyright?
A copyright is a bundle of rights assigned to one that creates an original work of authorship that is fixed in a tangible form that can be perceived
either with or without the aid of an instrument.  In the bundle are the rights to publish, perform publicly, record, reproduce, display, and make
new versions of the work.  The rights provided by a copyright promote expression and ensure that authors will derive benefits from their creative
efforts.

A copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of “original works of authorship” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and
certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished.  The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive
right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work, to perform
the copyrighted work publicly, or to display the copyrighted work publicly.

A copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the writing.  For example, a description of a machine could be
copyrighted, but this would only prevent others from copying the description; it would not prevent others from writing a description of their own
or from making and using the machine. Copyrights are registered by the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress.
A copyright is the only way to protect the expression of ideas, and attaches to fixed expression automatically.  Additional benefits are derived by
filing for copyright registration.
What forms of expression are protected by copyright?
Expression not fixed in a tangible form, ideas, methods, mathematical principles, formulas, and equations are not protected by copyright.
How do I get a copyright and what is a copyright registration?
To get a copyright, all that is required is that expression be fixed into a tangible form.  Copyright registration is a legal formality intended
to make a public record of the basic facts of a particular copyright. Registration is not a condition of copyright protection.  To obtain the
added benefits of a copyright registration, it is important to register a copyright within three months of a first publication.  
Note:  "Publication" is the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by
rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution,
public performance, or public display constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute
publication.
Why is copyright registration important?
Copyright registration is important for many reasons, namely, it gives you the ability to sue another for infringing your copyright and it gives
you access to certain remedies including statutory damages if the registration application was filed within three months of a first publication,
and attorney fees.  If the registration application is not filed within three months of a first publication, statutory damages are not available,
and you can only pursue actual damages, i.e., proven damages.   Registration establishes a public record of a copyright claim and, if made
before or within 5 years of publication, will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in
the certificate.  Registration also allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the United States Customs Service for
protection against the importation of infringing copies.  

It is important to note that registration may be made at any time within the life of the copyright.  Unlike the law before 1978, when a work
has been registered in unpublished form, it is not necessary to make another registration when the work becomes published, although the
copyright owner may register the published edition, if desired.
How long does a copyright last?
A copyright lasts for the life of the author + 70 years.  In some instances a copyright can be renewed by filing a renewal application.
Literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works are protected by copyright.  These kinds of expression can be found in motion pictures,
screenplays, computer programs, novels, sculptures, songs, fabric designs, sound recordings, etc.
What forms of expression are not protected by copyright?