What Are Copyrights?
Copyrights are a type of intellectual property protection that provide its owner with the exclusive right to reproduce their works for a defined period of time.
Copyrights are automatic and begin the moment that the work is created and exists in tangible form. They are most often applied to:
- Literary works like poetry, novels, speeches, and songs.
- Computer code
- Plays, movies, and TV shows
- Pictures, sculptures, and architecture on buildings
While it is not necessary, registering copyright on original work provides certain advantages.
For example, registered copyrights make it easier to bring legal claims and infringement suits.
Copyright registration also establishes a public record and can entitle the holder to bigger damages in a lawsuit.
The duration of a copyright may differ between jurisdictions and the type of work artifact created. The Copyright Act of 1976 stipulates that the copyright term for work created lasts for the author’s lifetime plus another 70 years. Work that was created for hire, anonymously, or pseudonymously can have a copyright duration of 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever is shorter. This temporary monopoly provided by copyright protection enables the author to profit from their work before others copy it.
When To Copyright
Copyrights can also be transferred, assigned, or licensed. For example, a musician or author may transfer copyright for their work to a recording company or book publisher to reach a wider audience. Such transfers are generally recorded in writing. Copyright licenses are used to produce imitations or cover versions of original work. In such arrangements, the licensee informs the copyright holder of their intentions and pays a set amount for the original work.
Copyrights vs Patents
Copyrights differ from patents because they only protect the expression of an idea or process and not the idea itself. For example, a book about a new dieting technique can be protected by copyright but the technique itself, which is the idea contained in the book, can only be patented, not copyrighted.
How Do You Know If Something Is Copyrighted?
Copyrights are also different from trademarks, which are a type of intellectual protection reserved for signs, designs, or phrases. Branding logos and names are examples of trademarks. In the previous example, the dieting technique may have a brand name and logo, say DietPlan, to easily identify and distinguish it from other, similar products in the market. The brand name can be trademarked by its creator to identify their product in the market. Competitors or services using the words DietPlan in the order, style, and font trademarked by the product’s creator are eligible to be sued.
What Cannot Be Copyrighted?
There are several things that cannot be copyrighted. Here are a couple of examples:
- Works that are not tangible, such as an improvisational speech that hasn’t been written down.
- Ideas, processes, systems, and methods. Patents are used for these.
- Slogans, titles, short phrases, and names. Trademarks are used for these.