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COPYRIGHT - THE BASICS Copyright provides protection to authors of "original works of authorship" from their use by third-parties.

For copyright to exist, the work must be "fixed" in a tangible means of expression - e.g. an idea cannot be copyrighted until it is written on paper or recorded verbally. Copyright protects things such as music, books, magazines, art works, sculptures, web sites, maps, motion pictures, choreographic works, etc. Copyright protection gives its owner the rights to make copies of the works, to prepare other works (derivative works) on the basis of their work, to sell or rent their works or to generally authorize others to use their works, to perform or display their works in public, as well as a number of other rights. It is illegal, with some exceptions, for someone to attempt to use your copyrighted work without your permission. One of the main exceptions is the concept of "fair use". Fair use exists when a copyrighted work is used in satire, news reporting, teaching, research, scholarship and in other ways. To determine whether use of a copyrighted work is "fair use" courts look to the following factors: (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. An example of "fair use" is the "compulsory license" for certain musical works. While copyright protection exists from the moment of creation of the work, there are a number of important reasons to copyright your work with Copyright Office and have it deposited with the Library of Congress. The main reasons listed at the Copyright Office website are:

Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim. Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U.S. origin.

If made before or within 5 years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate. If registration is made within 3 months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney's fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner. Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U. S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies. For additional information, go to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website at Click on Intellectual Property Rights.

An issue often arises as to who the owner of a copyright is. One of the main themes is when an employee creates a work at the behest of the employer. In such a case, the work is usually considered a "Work for Hire", and the employer owns the copyright even though the employee created the work. Employees should also be careful when creating works outside of their employment to ensure that they do not also fall under the guise of works for hire. The owner of the copyrighted work can license the work to others for use, can sell the copyright in the work or can dispose of the copyright in nearly any way the owner sees fit. Merely owning a work, and not the copyright in the work, does not give the owner of the work the copyright - e.g. if you buy a book, you own the book but you do not own the copyright in the book. Copyright can often be a confusing field, and you should consult with counsel in connection with protecting your copyrighted works, in preventing others from using your works without permission, and in ensuring that you, or your business, does not carelessly infringe upon the copyrights of others.
The law Offices of Michael D. Stewart can assist you in these and a variety of other issues. You may contact us at: Michael D. Stewart, Esq. Law Offices of Michael D. Stewart 200 SE 1st St., Suite 701 Miami, Florida 33131 Call 866-438-6574 Copyright 2012 Michael D. Stewart