A copyright protects literary works (including software code), musical, dramatic, choreographic, pictorial or graphic, audiovisual or architectural work, or a sound recording, from being reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner. This gives the author or current owner sole right to authorize copies or reproductions of the work and to create derivative works. All an author has to do is register the work to obtain their copyright registration certificate. The author(s) may transfer the copyright to any other party if they choose to do so, and this will need to be recorded with the U.S. Copyright Office. The right lasts for the life of the author life, plus 70, 95 or 120 years, depending on the nature of authorship and creation date of the work. Sounds simple, right?
Copyright may appear easy to the layperson but can be challenging in practice. For instance, it is of the utmost importance that a legally enforceable agreement be used to transfer any one of the bundle of rights. Without it, ownership and title to the work may be in dispute and unlike the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which offers an internal administrative process for resolving most disputes, the arena for copyright disputes is the United States courts. At Gearhart Law, we work with you to ensure that your copyrighted works are not only protected but that any use, transfer or commissioning of a work is protected as well. We also guide creators and innovators in understanding the overlap between copyright and patent and trademark law and illuminate concepts such as fair use of copyrights so that you can better appreciate the line of where copyright infringement starts and ends. After all, if you create an original work of art, the least you can is protect and profit from it over your lifetime.