There is so much of intellectual creation happening in the world so it’s no surprise that authors and creators of different works are often encouraged to copyright their work. This provides them with valuable protections from those who may try to steal their work or take credit for it. This guide answers six frequently asked questions that you may want to consider if you plan to copyright your work.
Do I have to file official paperwork to copyright my works?
Works become copyrighted as soon as they are created in a fixed tangible medium (i.e. printed, painted, recorded, etc.). Authors of these works aren’t required to file paperwork or even use the copyright symbol and they are still covered by the copyright law (although authors should use the copyright symbol whenever possible). However, it is suggested that authors file the paperwork and make the required deposits (copies of the work) in order to have irrefutable proof that they are the original authors.
What can be copyrighted?
In general, anything that is created or thought of by an individual or group of individuals, then transferred to some sort of medium can be copyrighted. These are called “works” and they can fall into one of eight categories:
- Literary works
- Musical works, including lyrics
- Dramatic works
- Choreographic works
- Sculptural works, pictorial works, and graphics
- Audiovisual works (like movies)
- Sound recordings
- Architectural work
Can websites be copyrighted?
The answer to this is not a straight-forward yes or no. While copyrights don’t protect websites as a whole, they can protect elements of the website. Since copyrights protect “works”, this can be applied to things like online graphics or pictures, text, or designs. The catch to this is that it can’t be just works that you use on the website. It has to be works that you create. For example, if you pay royalty fees to use images or music on your website, you can’t copyright these elements even if you own the website and you designed it yourself.
What kind of rights do I have as the copyright holder?
When you create a work, you have some basic rights as the copyright holder. These rights are:
- To publicly perform or display your work. This can include a live performance, a recorded performance, a sound-recorded performance, or any type of public display that doesn’t break any other laws.
- To reproduce the work in any way you see fit.
- To create derivative works. This means transform it, adapt it, recast it, rewrite, it or any other types of changes you may want to do.
- To distribute your work in any way that you see fit.
What is a mandatory deposit?
A mandatory deposit is the mandatory number of copies of your work that you must submit to the copyright office. In general, the mandatory deposit number is two copies. These copies must be of the best version of the work and must be submitted within three months of the publication of the work. There are a quite a few types of works that are exempt from the mandatory deposit rule (they are not exempt if you are applying for a copyright). More information about the exemptions can be found in Circular 7D from the United States Copyright Office of the Library of Congress.
What is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?
In 1998 this act was passed in an attempt to combat online copyright infringement. The act actually criminalized copyright infringement. DMCA is presented in the form of a tool that authors and/or copyright holders can use to report copyright infringement to internet service providers (ISPs), search engines, web hosting companies, and other such entities. As long as all the information that is required is provided in the take down request, these entities may take down the copyrighted material from the unlawful party. However, these companies have the right to refuse to take down the material in which case they may be held liable as a sort of “infringement accessory” in a lawsuit.