How Copyright Laws Protect Original Works

The area of copyright law has been rapidly expanding along with the explosive growth of the Internet. In 2008 alone, there were over 20,000 separate copyright infringement actions filed in federal district courts – representing a substantial increase from the preceding year.

Title 17 of the United States Code is the controlling legislation that makes up the 1976 Copyright Act and which provides copyright owners with the commercial and exclusive right to reproduce and sell their protected work, prepare derivative works and to contractually authorize others to do the same. Under current law, it is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the copyright.

There is a common misconception concerning what qualifies as protected works of authorship under federal copyright law. Some people mistakenly believe that in order to have an enforceable copyright, a public official or entity must certify the work as original before it can receive copyright protections. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Today, a work becomes self-protected by federal copyright law the instant it is created and made tangible through some form of communicated medium. The real issue however is one of evidentiary proof, should there be a subsequent legal challenge to the copyrights ownership by another claiming legal rights to the same work.

Another common misconception of copyright law is that it protects inventions, ideas, brands and designs. While these can be legally protected forms of original expression, they are actually protected by patent and trademark law, not copyright.

The most common categories of legally protected original work include the intellectual ownership of novels, movies, screenplays, websites, poetry, advertising, music and architectural drawings. Examples of copyrighted work can range from the writing of a simple and original sonnet, to the writing a mega screenplay. The same body of federal copyright laws protects both forms of original work. Copyright law will not however protect facts or ideas, although it may protect the ways in which these facts and ideas get communicated.

There are a number of other important legal benefits to copyright registration. The first is that it provides you with the legal right to reproduce it, repackage it or even modify it from its original form. For example, an author can modify the original published work such as a novel, and call it a second, third or forth edition to their original piece of work. By doing so, the owner of the copyright has also increased the overall value of his or her work.

There is probably no better way of establishing proof of copyright ownership then by registering your work. Another reason to get your work registered is that it provides legal notice to the rest of the world that you are asserting ownership rights to the subject work.

But perhaps there is no more persuasive way to demonstrate prior ownership of your work then by having it duly filed with the Library of Congress. There are a number of excellent online discount legal services that can help with the process.

From a litigation perspective, filing a legal action for infringement of copyright is rarely an effective means of resolving the dispute. Instead, intellectual property lawyers are finding increased success in submitting their case to mediation services, which allows the competing parties to work out their differences and come up with a meaningful settlement of their copyright claims.

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