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The copyright does not protect an underlying idea or concept but an “original work of authorship” expressed in any tangible medium, including words, music, pictures or video stored on paper, digital media, metal engravings, etc. A copyright is created upon so expressing the original workpiece in tangible form. But registering a workpiece with the federal Copyright Office offers important benefits, including avoiding having to prove and maximizing your money damages when suing someone for infringement; being granted your attorneys fees in such a suit; and generally being able to sue in the first place. More at home, federal registration gives an artist far greater respect and leverage with publishers and corporate entities when engaging the commercial marketplace.
How to Apply: To apply for a registered copyright, you need to provide the Copyright Office in
What Constitutes Copyright Infringement: Whether a copyright infringement claim is by or against you, proving the claim usually reduces to showing a copyright registration certificate, together with either direct copying or a fact-based showing that alleged infringer had access to the copyrighted workpiece and that the two workpieces are substantially similar. One defense is independent creation.
What to Discuss with A Lawyer: A lawyer can answer your questions about the application process. You should consult with a lawyer to best protect your interests when putting your artwork into the commercial marketplace, e.g., when engaging in any written contracts or collaborating with entities. You should consult with a lawyer as soon as possible if copyright infringement becomes an issue, whether the claim is by or against you.
Legal Terms and Issues Related to Copyrights
Deposit - One or more copies of a work, required in an application for federal copyright registration (“application”); depending on publication and type of work.
Made for Hire - A qualification of a work, if applicable, to be designated in an application. “Made for hire” is a legal term of art meaning the work belongs not to the person who created the work but to that person’s employer or contractor.
Serial - A classification of a work, if applicable, to be designated in an application. A “serial” is a work indefinitely issued in successively designated parts, e.g., newspapers, magazines, newsletters, etc.
ISSN - An identification number within an international standard, to be provided in an application if the work is serial. An ISSN may be sought for U.S.-published serials by application to the National Serials Data Program (NSDP) within the Library of Congress.
ISBN - An identification number within an international standard, to be provided in an application if an ISBN has been assigned. ISBNs relate to book-like works, and may be sought by application to an appropriate agency. An ISBN is useful for marketing and distributing book-like products online and in bookstores and libraries.
Type of Work - A “work” is the thing for which copyright registration is sought by application, and an application must specify the category or “type” of work at issue. There are several types of works, including literary, sound, visual and audiovisual.
Zip Code Extension - Certain applications provide for zip code extensions to expedite processing of an application, depending on the type of work at issue.
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