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Copyrights protect works of authorship and are generally limited to the manner of expressing the works, but not the idea or information presented in the works themselves.

This distinction is a key component of copyright law. U.S. copyright law provides for protection in works in the following general categories:

  • literary works, which includes computer programs/software (source code and object code)
  • 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
  • architectural works

Copyrights can be based on original works and works derived from other preexisting works (i.e., derivative works). However, there are restrictions as to the scope of derivative works and whether they qualify for copyright protection. Such determinations are made on a case-by-case basis. Works falling within one of the general categories listed above are automatically conferred copyright protection as soon as the work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression (e.g., paper, canvas, audio/video media, computer storage, etc. among other mediums of expression). Copyright registrations can be conferred by the U.S. Copyright Office upon filing a copyright application, although registration is not required for copyright protection to exist on a particular work. Accordingly, one can secure copyright protection without filing an application, however should the copyright owner wish to bring a cause of action for copyright infringement, then a registration from the U.S. Copyright Office is required. The © symbol is used to denote copyright protection. The © symbol may be used with or without a federal registration granted by the U.S. Copyright Office.

Copyright terms generally last for the life of the author plus an extra 70 years. Works made for hire, anonymous works, or pseudonymous works have copyright terms of 95 years from the year of publication or 120 years from the year of creation, whichever term ends first. Copyrights are not renewable on works created on or after January 1, 1978. Foreign copyright protection is dictated by the individual rules and procedures in each country. However, international agreements allow for streamlined copyright protection in various member countries.

Rahman LLC’s attorneys are experienced with U.S. and international copyright law, rules, and procedures, and can assist in filing and prosecuting federal and international copyright applications. Moreover, the firm’s attorneys can assist in defending copyrights should they be infringed or challenged.

Copyright services:

  • Preparation of copyright applications
  • Prosecution (including foreign filings/prosecution)
  • Opinions
  • Litigation