Knowledge — 1 year ago

What is the United States Copyright Act?

by Garry S.

Copy Right, Copyright Act, What is the Copyright Act

American Copy Right Act Explained

Copyright is an intellectual property right which grants the original creator the exclusive right to decide whether the work may be copied or used by others for some specified period of time.

The constitution of the U.S. grants Congress to create copyright laws under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8, which is known as the Copyright Clause. The core idea of the copyright act is to protect the "work of authorship".

The British Statute of Anne initially influenced the U.S. copyright law. Under the Statute of Anne, copyright was vested in authors rather than publishers for the first time. The copyright act of 1790 was the first U.S. federal copyright law. As per the first act, the duration of the copyright period was 14 years and it could be renewed once for 14 more years.

After 50 years the applicable copyright period was extended to 28 years. Under the copyright act of 1976, it was further extended to 75 years or the life of the author plus 50 years. The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 further increased copyright period to 120 years or the life of the creator plus 70 years.

Copy Right

The Copyright Clause of the U.S. Constitution describes the objective of the act. The clause states that the goal of the copyright law is to promote the development of science and arts by securing exclusive rights to inventors and authors for their works for a defined period time. This is also considered as a way of incentivizing the creative works of art, literature, architecture, music and other works of authorship.

States are not allowed to enact their own laws to protect the rights as provided by the federal copyright act. But there are state copyright acts that are limited to works that cannot be protected under the federal copyright laws.

Some works of authorship under the copyright act are as follows:

  • Literary works: Novels, nonfiction, prose, poetry, newspaper articles and newspapers, magazine articles and magazines, manuals, compilations, software documentation.
  • Musical works: Jingles, songs, and instrumentals
  • Dramatics: Plays, operas, and skits.
  • Pantomimes and choreography: Mime works, Jazz, modern dance and ballets.
  • Pictorial, graphic and sculptural works: paintings, graphic arts, cartoon strips, etc.
  • Audiovisual works and motion pictures: Movies, documentaries, travelogues, etc.
  • Sound recording: Music, sound or word recordings.
  • Architectural works: Design of buildings, plans, drawings and also the constructed building.
Copyright Act

One important concept associated with copyright is an idea-expression dichotomy. It implies that copyright protects the "expression" of an idea but it does not protect the "idea" itself. For example, a paper describing a theory is copyrightable. But the theory can be explained by some author in his own words without violating copyrights of the original author.

There are six basic exclusive rights enjoyed by copyright owners.  The copyright owner has the right to do or to authorize others to do the following:

  • Reproduce the work in copies or in phone records.
  • Prepare derivative works based on the original works.
  • Distribute the work to the public through copies or phone records by sale or other means.
  • Publicly perform the work if applicable.
  • Publicly display the work.
  • Digitally transmit sound recordings.

Violation of the above exclusive rights is called copyright infringement.

What is the Copyright Act

For copyrighted works, three types of transfers are possible. These are an assignment, exclusive license, and non-exclusive license. An author after transferring copyright may also terminate the transfer.

Works prepared by federal government employees as part of their official duties are not covered under copyright acts. This rule does not apply to state government employees.

Registration of a copyright is optional. The author of original work is automatically granted copyright. However, registration is required before a lawsuit is filed.

What is Copyright Infringement?


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