Introduction and History of Copyright Law in the US

The US has an old and well-established copyright law framework. It dates back to 1790. It has undergone several updates notably in 1831, 1863, 1909 and 1976. Recently it has been revised in 1988, 1992 and 1994. Equally important is the 1998 amendment to the US copyright law. It caught the global spotlight for criminalizing digital copyright violations as well as introducing hefty penalties for the violations.

Additionally, the revision also exempted service providers from copyright and licensing violations made by their users. The amendment is called “Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.” You could go to prison for infringing on digital and online copyrights or assist in bypassing their management.

Copyright law is aimed at promoting the arts. The law recognizes authors, artists, inventors and other creators of original works and designs. The law protects their works. It empowers them to find markets for their products. The law also protects their rights to benefit financially from their creations. Under the law, creators can remodel their creations without requiring consultation. The emphasis of the copyright law is on promoting the creations rather than enabling financial gain for the creators.

How It Works

Copyright law supports the growth of the arts and sciences. It protects creators by granting them exclusive rights to their creations for a limited period. Such rights include the authority to copy, remodel or rewrite, publish and distribute their creations. It also empowers authors and artists to display and perform their works publicly. In addition, they have the rights to transmit them digitally.

These rights can be transferred and licensed out by the copyright holder. The licenses normally consist of specific rights, which are outlined in written agreements. Creators also retain the right to cancel a transfer or license of copyrighted works. These exclusive rights typically apply up to seventy years after the death of the creator. The policy of fair use allows the restricted use of some degree of copyrighted works for well-defined purposes.

Registration or publication is not a requirement for protection. However, it serves to enhance the visibility of an invention. All original creations including those that are not registered or published are protected under the law. Moreover, it is not mandatory for copyrighted works to carry copyright notices. Registration of copyrights is done under the Copyright Office. It is the work of federal law enforcement agencies to adjudicate violation cases.

What Does Copyright Law Protect?

What kind of creations is covered under the law? Copyright law covers audio and sound recordings, video, photographs, graphic design, and sculptures. It also protects literary works, musicals and dramas, choreography, architecture as well as compilations.

The most common form of copyright violation involves duplicating the original creation for financial gain. Using someone else’s creations by copying, creating similar products or distributing constitutes a violation. A copyright owner can stop a violator from using their work and obtain financial damages.

While the innovative use of ideas is protected, ideas and facts themselves are not. They are part of free speech under the First Amendment. In the same way, things such as titles, names, phrases, fonts, and fashion as well as federal government materials are exempt from copyrights