Common Questions about Copyrights

Copyrights Explained

Posted on 18, May, 2015

Last Modified on 15, June, 2015

What is a copyright and how do I get one? Find the answers to these copyright questions and more with this informative article!

What is a Copyright?

Copyrights Under the Microscope

A copyright is a form of legal protection given to the author of any original work - such as a book, song, choreography, painting, movie, or architecture. Under this protection, the owner of the copyright has the exclusive right to reproduce, share, perform, or display their work. Copyright law also covers both published and unpublished works. For example, let’s say you finally wrote that novel you’ve been talking about writing for years. You get it all down on paper, all 305 beautiful pages, but you have yet to find a publisher for the masterpiece. Even though your original work has not been published, distributed, or even legally registered (more on this later), it is protected still under the Copyright Act of 1976. At its essence, the purpose of a copyright is to protect intellectual property.

What is Protected by Copyright?

  • Novels
  • Poetry
  • Architecture
  • Computer Software
  • Movies/Plays
  • Art

What is Not Protected by Copyright?

  • Facts
  • Ideas
  • Titles / Names / Slogans
  • Symbols / Logos
  • Domain Names

Copyright vs Trademark

Copyright vs Trademark

There is a big difference between a copyright and a trademark. A copyright protects original creative works. A trademark protects only names, phrases, or symbols designed to differentiate one business from another. A copyright does not have to apply to a business in any way, while a trademark is usually used in conjunction with businesses or public figures. Lastly, trademarks must be applied for through the government, while copyrights do not require such formalities.

How to Get a Copyright

Now that you know what a copyright is, you probably want to know how to go about getting something copyrighted. Common questions include, when does a copyright apply and how do you use a copyright once you get one? Well, the answer is the simple one. A copyright exists from the moment your work is created. Copyrights are unlike trademarks in that they do not require an application or registration through the government. That’s not to say, however, that you shouldn’t officially register your work. Without documentation of your copyrighted work, it will be extremely difficult to fend off copyright infringement in the courts. Registering your copyright will also give it a public record, a good idea for any budding artists or authors who want their work to be easily searchable.

Visit the United States Copyright Office to learn more about registering your work. It’s as simple as filling out an application and submitting a copy of the work you wish to be registered. The process can take up to 8 months, but remember the copyright still exists from the moment the work is created.

How to Use a Copyright

Copyright Symbol

Generally, registering your copyright is as far as you will need to go to protect your creation from infringement. However, if you feel the need to make it clear that you own the copyright on a particular piece, you can place the copyright symbol on your work. Because a copyright exists from the moment you create an original work, you do not need to wait to register your work before using the copyright symbol. Type the copyright symbol with your keyboard by holding down ALT while typing 0169. For example:

Copyright © 2015 Displays2go. All Rights Reserved

You can copyright a website by placing this phrase on the site.

How Long does a Copyright Last?

If created after 1978, copyrights last for the life of the author plus 70 years.