Obtaining Copyright Protection
If you have created an original work of authorship we strongly suggest that you secure your rights by filing a copyright application.
What Is a Work of Authorship?
According to the Copyright Act‚ only “works of authorship” are protected by copyright law. The term is intentionally vague so it can encompass new mediums of creativity as they arise. However‚ the Act does define categories of works of authorship which include:
- Literary works;
- Musical works‚ including any accompanying words;
- Dramatic works‚ including any accompanying music;
- Pantomimes and choreographic works;
- Pictorial‚ graphic‚ and sculptural works;
- Motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
- Sound recordings; and
- Architectural works.
These categories are much broader than they seem. For example‚ computer software falls under “literary works‚” whereas maps fall under “pictorial‚ graphic‚ and sculptural works.”
Fixation and Originality
The most basic requirement for a copyrightable work is that it be “original” and “fixed.”
The criterion for originality is very loose. As long as a work is not a mere mechanical reproduction of another work and exhibits a minimal amount of creativity on the part of the author‚ then it can qualify for copyright. As for compilations‚ the selection and collection of preexisting materials or data must be done in such a way that it constitutes an original and new creative expression.
“Fixation” simply means that the work has been fixed in a tangible medium of expression through which it can be perceived‚ reproduced‚ or otherwise communicated. For example‚ a website becomes fixed when it is saved to a hard drive or published to the Internet. A story becomes fixed once it is written or typed on a piece of paper or saved as a document on a hard drive or other means of electronic storage. Similarly‚ a song becomes fixed once it is recorded onto a tape‚ CD‚ or saved as an mp3 file on a hard drive or other means of electronic storage.
Automatic Copyright Protection
If a work meets the three requirements of authorship‚ originality‚ and fixation‚ it is automatically protected by copyright‚ no formal registration required. A song becomes protected the moment it is recorded; a story becomes protected the moment it is written; and so on. Although under the current law‚ registration and notice of copyright are no longer required‚ a copyright registration is highly recommended due to the expanded copyright protections‚ including the ability to sue for infringement and the availability of statutory dames and attorneys fees for post-registration infringements.