A copyright is the legal protection given in the United
States to original
works of authorship, including books, paintings, photos, music, video, software, etc. Copyright
protection attaches to a work the moment it is fixed in tangible form (on paper, on video, etc.)
and prevents others from exploiting the work without permission.
Copyright is a Bundle of Rights. A copyright actually
is a bundle of rights which includes the
exclusive right to distribute, sell, duplicate, publicly perform and create derivative works from the
work. The length of copyright protection for older works is often difficult to determine, but for
newer works these exclusive rights last at least 70 years, depending upon whether the author
is a person or a company. The fact that a work is old doesn't necessarily mean that the
copyright on it has expired. Until the end of the term of protection, a copyright owner has the
right to sell, transfer, assign or license one or all of his exclusive rights to someone else. Unless
a copyright owner has given you rights, you may be violating copyright laws by copying or
selling an item.
Selling vs. Giving Away an Item. Copyright protection
includes the exclusive right to
distribute or sell the copyright work. This usually means that giving away a copyrighted work
(for example a copy of a videocassette) is not permitted. Thus, selling a pencil for $5.00, and
including for "free" an unauthorized videocassette copy would probably be an infringement.
Copyright Registrations and Markings. In the United
States, it is no longer necessary to
register a copyright to enjoy copyright protection. It is also no longer necessary to place a © on the copyrighted work. The absence of a © doesn't mean its okay to copy the work without permission.