US—copyright fundamentals
Produced by Eric Bensen

The following IP practice note produced by Eric Bensen provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • US—copyright fundamentals
  • What is copyright?
  • Copyright eligibility
  • Basic forms of eligible subject matter
  • Derivative works and compilations
  • Only expressions of ideas are protectable
  • Requirements for copyright protection
  • Originality
  • Fixation
  • Steps not required for protection
  • More...

US—copyright fundamentals

This Practice Note was originally written for Lexis Practice Advisor®, in the US.

It provides an overview of key US law copyright principles, including the types of works that are eligible for federal copyright protection, the requirements for copyright protection (originality and fixation), ownership, preemption of state law, the exclusive rights afforded to copyright owners under the Copyright Act, enforcement, and remedies. The limitations on copyright protection are also covered including functionality, fair use, the first sale doctrine and compulsory licensing.

What is copyright?

Copyright protects an original work of authorship that has been fixed in a tangible medium of expression (see: Requirements for copyright protection below). Common works of authorship include literary, musical, and dramatic works, motion pictures, and sound recordings (see: Copyright eligibility below). Copyright does not protect underlying ideas of the work, but rather the expression of ideas. For example, an original story in the abstract is not the subject of copyright, but the written story is protectable.

Registration in the US Copyright Office, though beneficial, is not required for copyright protection. For guidance on copyright registration, see Practice Note: US—registration of copyrights.

The duration of copyright protection is determined by a complex set of factors, but generally a copyright expires 70 years after the author’s death. For guidance on copyright duration, see Practice Note: US—duration of copyright.

A copyright owner has the right to exclude

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