A copyright establishes ownership of original works of authorship “fixed” in any tangible medium of expression. A copyright applies to the expression of an idea, whether published or not. Once an original work is created and fixed, copyright exists.
The Copyright Act grants copyright owners exclusive rights in five categories: reproduction, adaptation, public distribution, public performance and public display. Moral rights apply to visual works- moral rights include having the work credited to you and control over destruction of the artwork.
Through written agreement, the owner of a copyright can authorize or license others to exercise these rights. Any of the exclusive rights that make up a copyright and any subdivision of them can be transferred and owned separately, even though the transfer may be limited in time or place of effect. Any owner of an exclusive right may apply for registration of a claim in the work. With a federally registered copyright, creators have an advantage in negotiating these rights.
The Creative Commons share certain works for free, but if the license is breached then there is copyright infringement.
Displaying a copyright notice is recommended because it can prevent infringers from claiming “innocent infringement,” thereby limiting the amount of damages you may recover.
A U.S. Copyright registration is protected overseas by bilateral treaties. Signatory countries to the Berne Convention have agreed to treat foreign copyright owners as legally equal to domestic copyright holders.
A copyright registeration lasts 70 years after the death of the author, or if it is a work for hire, 90 years from the publication date. Copyrights expire on the last calendar day of the year. The Copyright Act has amended the registration terms several times in history, so what the law was on the work’s registration date determines when it expires. If copyright notice was missing, works registered under old versions of the law may be in the public domain.