Basically, the following is a listing of the categories of works which are protected under federal law:

      1. Literary works, including books, periodicals, catalogs, directories, textual advertising such as brochures, pamphlets and other literature, poems, tabular lists, lectures, sermons, manuals and computer programs and databases


      2. Musical works


      3. Dramatic works


      4. Pantomimes and choreographic works


      5. Pictorial, graphic and sculptural works, including maps, aesthetically pleasing useful articles such as jewelry, decorations, clocks and bookends, games, statues, architectural plans and renderings, blueprints, photographs, prints and pictorial illustrations such as labels and pictorial advertising, posters, brochures, and pamphlets, and dress and fabric designs.


      6. Motion pictures and other audiovisual works


    7. Sound recordings

Copyright protection does not exist for mere ideas, procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles or discoveries. For example, copyright protection does not exist for an idea of painting a picture; rather, copyright protection would exist in the actual painting produced by the author which is his/her expression of the idea.

Federal copyright protection automatically comes into existence when the author’s work of authorship is fixed in any tangible medium of expression. This simply means that the work of authorship must be produced on some type of media such as on paper, in a tape recording, or in a motion picture.

The copyright in the work of authorship is owned by the author who produced the same unless the work of authorship falls within the definition of “work made for hire”. A “work made for hire” is a work that is performed by an employee within the scope of his or her employment or that was specially ordered or commissioned. In the former situation, the employee must be an employee within the common meaning of the word and the work performed must be done by the employee within the scope of his or her employment. Independent contractors, freelancers, and the like are not normally employees within the meaning of the Copyright Act. For example, if a company hires an advertising agency to design a particular advertisement, the copyright in the advertisement thus made is owned by the advertising agency and not by the company even though the company instructed the advertising agency to design the advertisement and even though the advertising agency was paid in full for its services. The “specially ordered or commissioned” situation is very limited and, hence, not discussed in this memorandum.

The ownership of a copyright may be transferred to another party by a written instrument of conveyance signed by the owner of the copyright. The copyright may also be licensed by the owner to a third party in exchange for royalties.
The copyright protection in a work of authorship exists for the lifetime of the author and for fifty years thereafter, or, in the case of a work made for hire, the lesser of seventy-five years from the year of the first publication of the work or 100 years from the year of creation of the work of authorship.

Prior to March 1, 1989, the Copyright Act required a statutory copyright notice to be placed on each work of authorship which is published, or risk loss of copyright protection. For works published on or after March 1, 1989, use of the copyright notice became optional, though highly recommended, since it (1) informs the public that the work is protected by copyright, (2) identifies the copyright owner, and (3) shows the year of first publication. If the work carries the proper copyright notice, a court will not allow an infringer to claim “innocent infringement”.

The statutory copyright notice contains only the following three elements:

      1. The word “Copyright” or the copyright symbol “©”


      2. The year of first publication


    3. The name of the owner of the copyright.

If the work of authorship is to be distributed outside the United States, the notation “All Rights Reserved” should additionally be placed on or affixed to the work of authorship.

The copyright of the works of authorship can be registered under the Copyright Act within the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. Registration is a legal formality intended to make a public record of the basic facts of a particular copyright. Copyright law provides several advantages to copyright owners who register their works. For example, if registration is made within three months of 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. Further, if registration is made within 5 years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in the court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated on the certificate of registration.

Infringement of a copyright in a work of authorship occurs whenever, without consent of the owner of the copyright there is a reproduction of the work, a preparation of a derivative work based upon the copyrighted work, a distribution of copies of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership or by rental, lease or lending, and by publicly performing or displaying the work of authorship. Notwithstanding the above, the Copyright Act provides that “fair use” of the work of authorship does not constitute an infringement thereof. The definition of “fair use” is a factual and legal determination which is not addressed in this memorandum.

The foregoing has outlined some of the more important aspects of copyright law. However, since it is a very specialized area of the law, it is highly recommended that you consult with a copyright attorney at once in order to obtain detailed advice concerning our particular work of authorship.

If you wish to retain us as your copyright attorneys, one of us would be pleased to meet with you at your convenience. The charges for our services will be $175.00 per hour for all time spent by us on your behalf, plus reimbursable expenses such as photocopying, postage and registration fees. Excluding charges for office conferences, most copyright registrations cost $300.00 in legal fees and expenses.