Copyrights are granted to the owner the instant they create an original copy, which means they do not have to register their work to protect it unless their copyrights have been infringed and they want to collect statutory damages through court proceedings. Although the copyrights are exclusive to the creator or owner of the works, certain limitations or exceptions can allow specific uses of materials protected by copyrights. If you want more information on U.S. copyright law and related legal issues and how a copyright attorney can help in case of an infringement, keep reading.
When you are ready to consult with an experienced copyright lawyer, we welcome you to contact us at Greenberg & Lieberman, LLC, for legal protection of your creative works. We are a law firm based in Washington, DC specializing in various legal issues, including patent law, unauthorized use or infringement issues, copyright litigation, and more.
What is Copyright Law?
Copyright is the legal right to copy. It is used to prevent other entities from accessing your original work of authorship. The U.S. Copyright Act grants owners the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform, adapt, or display their original work. The copyrighted material can only be used or distributed for sale by the owner.
To secure copyrights, the work must be original and not adapted from something already existing. The owner requires no publication, registration, or notice of copyrights to obtain protection for their original work. However, older artistic works may require registration to determine copyright status. All original works should have a minimum “modicum of creativity” to be eligible for copyright. Titles, listing materials, short phrases, slogans, and any variation of coloring or lettering cannot be copyrighted in the U.S. Any item or piece that has been copyrighted should not create a monopoly.
Typically, copyrights can be received by a person when their work is fixed, either written or recorded, in a tangible medium. However, some state laws protect non-fixed (neither written nor recorded on any device) works. In contrast, others do not grant copyrights for works that are not converted into a tangible medium, such as handwritten or saved on a device.
According to copyright laws, once the creator is granted copyrights, they can determine who else has permission to use and refashion their work. They are also permitted to benefit from their creation monetarily. This law protects the rights of integrity and attribution of creators of visual arts. However, it is critical to understand that copyright protects the right to expression, not ideas. A person cannot have a monopoly on ideas, which is why this law is not extended to any facts, history, process, procedure, principle, or discovery. Therefore, works that consist entirely of factual or public information cannot be protected by copyright law.
How Do I Know If I Need a Copyright Lawyer?
In some cases, a person can obtain copyrights independently without legal guidance or the help of an intellectual property expert. However, they can benefit from hiring an attorney. While copyright registration might be a simple process, an attorney well-versed in intellectual property matters could make the registration process more manageable and provide you with thorough information regarding copyrights.
Copyright lawyers can also help clients gather all required legal documents to help expedite and support legal proceedings. In addition to legal documents, they have extensive legal resources to help achieve a favourable outcome for their clients.
In some cases, being one of the multiple authors of a single piece can make copyright registrations more complex because numerous issues can arise. Your lawyer can help you effectively handle those issues and manage all relevant documentation. Legal consultation would also benefit you if you plan on selling or assigning other people the rights to your works; for example, a copyright lawyer can guide you through the copyright licensing process if you wish to license your work.
According to copyright law, if someone has illegally accessed your work, filing a lawsuit with expert legal representation from your attorney can assist you in protecting the rights to your work. It is always best to consult a law firm specializing in copyright law.
Why Choose a Copyright Lawyer from Greenberg & Lieberman, LLC?
There are numerous benefits, including the following:
- Individual Attention: As a boutique law firm, we focus on providing personalized attention to each client. We take the time to listen to our clients carefully and develop a legal strategy to further their interests.
- No Delays: Whether it is licensing or registration, our lawyers can ensure there are no delays, errors, or oversights that prevent you from obtaining copyrights to your work.
- Extensive Experience: Our experienced copyright attorneys have dealt with a variety of cases that have given them exposure to all types of copyright laws.
Key Factors in Copyright Laws
Generally, courts consider four factors in copyright infringement cases that determine whether the use of copyrighted work is permissible.
- The character or purpose of the use
- The nature of the work
- Whether the copyrighted work is being used as a whole
- The aftermath or consequences of the misuse of the original work
FAQs about Copyright Law
Can a Copyright Holder Sue?
Yes, if you have registered your copyright, you have the right to sue. However, if you are not registered, there can be some restrictions on suing another party for infringement and enforcement of your copyrights. For example, original work can be registered anytime, before or after the infringement. However, if you register your work after the infringement, you could lose your right to statutory damages, which are the high-level damages awarded in copyright infringement cases. But there is a bit of a leeway provided. For instance, if the work was registered within three months of publication after it was infringed, you can still be awarded statutory damages.
What Type of Works can be Copyright Protected?
Any literary, musical, architectural, choreographic, cartographic, pantomimic, graphic, pictorial, audiovisual, sculptural, and dramatic piece of work can be copyright-protected under the U.S. Copyright Act.
How Long Does Copyright Protection Last in the U.S.?
The time period of copyright protection depends on a few factors, including when the work was created. For instance, any work created before 1978 can have a different timeline for copyright protection. As for works created after 1978, the copyright term is valid for the author’s entire life plus 70 years after the author is deceased.
According to copyright law, If a work has multiple authors, the copyrights are valid until 70 years after the death of the last surviving author. For works of anonymous and pseudonymous authors, the copyright terms remain for 120 years after the creation and 95 years from the publication of the works. To check if your work can be copyrighted, you can contact a copyright law attorney.
How Do I Know If a Copyright Has Been Infringed?
As long as someone has not copied anything substantial from your work, they can get away with it, so before you claim infringement, you should have sufficient proof that your work was reproduced and the copied work is taken or copied from your original piece.
One of the factors considered in court for copyright infringement is the quality and quantity of the work that is copied. For example, if a large proportion of your original piece has been copied, but the copied work is significantly unoriginal, copyright infringement might not be found, but if a small proportion of your work is copied, but the copied material is very similar to your copyrighted material, then infringement can be found. Any work reproduced for reporting, research, in the public interest, or books and newspapers for private use may not be considered copyright infringement.