Copyright Law

What is a copyright?

A copyright is a type of legal protection afforded to creators of original works, including literary, musical, dramatic, choreographed, and architectural works, motion pictures, sound recordings, and works of art, such as paintings, and sculptures.

Copyright protection prevents another individual from copying, performing or using the piece of work without the express consent of the author or creator and establishes the ownership of the piece of work. Protection is available to both published and unpublished works. To be able to be copyrighted, a work must be original and must have already been written or recorded. This is because a copyright does not protect an idea or plan; instead, it protects the expression of that idea or plan.

Can a website be copyrighted?

Any original work or authorship appearing on a website can be protected under copyright law. This may include any text or articles, digital artwork, photographs and animation to appear on the website. Because a website cannot be sent to the Copyright Office in the mail, the procedures for registering the contents of a website are different than a standard document or photograph.

A key aspect of a website that cannot be copyrighted is the website’s domain name. Responsibility for domain names falls under the jurisdiction of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a nonprofit organization located in California that has assumed the responsibility for assigning domain names by means of accredited registers.

Who can obtain a copyright?

Copyright protection exists from the time a piece of work is created. A copyright is obtainable by the author or creator of a piece of work or, in the case of work made for hire, the employer or contractor.

The authors of a joint piece of work are co-owners of the copyright unless there is an agreement to the contrary. Mere ownership of a piece of work does not give that owner the copyright. Transfer of ownership does not automatically transfer the copyright to the individual who received the piece of work.

While minors may claim a copyright, many state laws regulate the business dealings involving the copyrighted work own by the minor.