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Intellectual Property: Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright: Copyright


The Copyright Act of 1976 is an exclusive rights protection for authors of either published or unpublished works like art, literature, dramas, and music. Original content can only be protected in a stylistic manner. For example, the story of Romeo and Juliet has been retold for centuries, however the musical Westside Story is copyrighted for it's portrayal, musical numbers, script, and choreography. Copyrights are registered and kept within the Library of Congress. 

Who can Claim Copyright?

Only the creator of the original content is considered to be an author, and can thus claim copyright, unless the author signs a written agreement passing the copyright authorship to another individual or if an individual acquired a work by inheritance. Although there are restrictions depending on state law, minors are eligible to claim copyright. The author can come from any nation and register for copyright within the U.S. The U.S. also has treaties with certain countries in which copyrights are protected in both countries.

What does a Copyright Protect?

A copyright will protect both published and unpublished works. Beyond works of art, music, literature, and theater, works of programming, architecture, software, and systems can also be copyrighted. The difference between a copyright and a trademark or a patent is that copyright protects works that were authored whereas patents protect works that were invented or discovered, and a trademark protects a specific image or symbol associated with a product to distinguish itself within the market.

Fair Use Index

The goal and purpose of the U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index is to help the public understand what qualifies as fair use, what has been determined to be fair use, and any supplementary court documents. Both the public and lawyers alike utilize the Fair Use Index in order to see what courts have previously ruled within a searchable database.  The Fair Use Index does not offer legal advice, nor should it be used as such.


"Poor Man's Copyright"

The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.