Copyright Law & Copyright Protection

U.S. copyright law protects the ‘expression’ of an original work of authorship or art and is predominately federal law. There is some state law regarding intellectual property that may extend to copyright enforcement. Copyright protection is limited in scope to the expression of a work, and does not extend to the underlying idea. It is one of the least expensive forms of intellectual property protection available, lasting far longer than a patent, up to 125 years, and does not require “continuous use” or periodic supplemental filings as does a trademark registration. In general, U.S. copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years and for works of corporate authorship to 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever endpoint is earlier. Copyright law and term varies in other countries.

Under U.S. law, copyrightable subject matter includes, for example, books, periodicals, phono records, film, tapes, software, musical works (including accompanying words), dramatic works (including accompanying music), pantomimes, choreographic works, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, motion pictures and other audio-visual works, sound recordings, and architectural works to name a few. For a work to be considered “original,” it need not be novel as in the patent sense, but it cannot be substantially copied from another work; it must contain at least a ‘modicum of creativity’.

Copyright dates, notice, publication, and federal registration are critical elements of copyright enforcement. The patent lawyers at Maine Cernota & Rardin are ready to help you sort out what materials qualify, what specimens are needed, how to provide notice of copyright, and where to file, as well as counseling on related matters including copyright infringement and avoidance, licensing and conveyances.

In an age of rapidly expanding technology, the acquisition and exploitation of intellectual property is the single, most successful business strategy on the planet.


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