Quick Refresher on Copyright Protection

Originally posted 2018-11-19 11:20:33

By Tikwiza Nkowane|www.amdlawgroup.com

A copyright defined as “a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for “original works of authorship”, including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations.”

As with all rights of protection, it is important to know whether an existing copyright exists.


How do you search for existing copyrights through copyright.gov?

The U.S. Copyright Office provides a search facility through www.copyright.gov.  To conduct a search, you need to do the following:

  • Click “Search Records” to access the Copyright Office Catalog;
  • Specify the search term; and
  • Search by either Title, Name, Keyword, Registration Number, Document Number, Command Keyword.

What exclusive rights are associated with ownership of a copyright?

Exclusive rights associated with ownership of a copyright protects the owner of the copyright and makes it illegal for anyone to do any of the following to the owners work without the exclusive permission from the owner:

    • Make copies of your work
    • Distribute copies of your work
    • Perform your work publically
    • Display your work publically
    • Make derivative works (making modifications, adaptations, or other new uses of a work, or translating the work to another media)

What works are protected by copyright?

Not all works are protected by copyright.  Original works of authorship that are fixed in “a tangible form of expression” are works protected by copyright and include:

      1. Literary works (which includes computer software)
      2. Musical works, including any accompanying words
      3. Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
      4. Pantomimes and choreographic works
      5. Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
      6. Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
      7. Sound recordings
      8. Architectural works

Works that are not protected by copyright include any:

      1. Idea
      2. Procedure
      3. Process
      4. System
      5. Title principle or discovery
      6. Names
      7. Titles
      8. Short phrases
      9. Slogans
      10. Familiar symbols
      11. Coloring
      12. Listings of contents or ingredients

Do you have to register a copyright to receive copyright protection?

This is a question that most people ask, and the answer is NO.  Neither publication nor registration with the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright.  Copyright exists immediately and automatically when the work is created.

What is the fair use doctrine?

Have you ever wondered why you can make copies of books, articles, photographs or diagrams?  This is because there is a doctrine known as The Fair Use Doctrine, which is a limitation which allows limited copying of copyrighted works for educational and research purpose not for commercial use.  Copies are allowed to be made for limited purposes and for a limited audience and time.

It is clear that any rights that are afforded federal protection, provide the owner with more safety and security for their mark, brand or work.