Here’s some of the more frequently asked questions arising in our practice with responses. These FAQ’s cover a wide range of topics and issues, but may be searched by keyword in the search box above.
- What is covered by a copyright?Answer: A copyright protects original works of authorship. Copyrights exist automatically, as soon as a work is fixed in a tangible form. Copyright law protects literary works (including computer programs); musical works; dramatic works; pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works (including maps); motion picture and other audiovisual works; sound recordings; and architectural works. Copyright law protects … Read more
- What exclusive rights does a copyright owner have?Answer: It is essential to appreciate that a copyright represents a bundle of exclusive rights, namely the following exclusive rights of the copyright holder: (i) to reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords; (ii) to prepare, or authorize the preparation of, derivative works based upon the work; (iii) to distribute copies or phonorecords to the … Read more
- What is the duration of a copyright? How long does a copyright last? When does a copyrighted work enter the public domain?Answer: Under U.S. law, there is a different copyright duration for works created before January 1, 1978 and those created thereafter. The current Copyright Act of 1976, which actually became effective on January 1, 1978, changed copyright duration from a term of years (then a maximum of two 28-year terms or 56 years total) to … Read more
- What is fair use and how does it apply to quotations?swer: As an express statutory exception to the exclusive rights of copyright owners, the “fair use” of a copyrighted work, or portions thereof, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research, is not an infringement of copyright. However, there are no exact rules for how much use is considered fair.
- What is a work-made-for-hire?swer: A work-made-for-hire is a special exception to the general rule that the person who creates a work is the “author” of that work. When a work is created in an employment context, the employer, rather than the employee, is typically considered the “author.” Another way to think of this is that works-made-for-hire are works … Read more
- What is a trademark?Answer: Trademarks are words, symbols, logos, designs, or phrases used to identify the source of a product or service and to distinguish it from others’ products or services. A trademark is associated with products alone, while a service mark is associated with services, such as business consulting. The term “trademark” is often used to refer … Read more
- What is the difference between a copyright and a trademark?swer: People often confuse copyrights and trademarks. There is some overlap. A copyright protects entire original works of authorship once they are “fixed in a tangible form.” Copyrights exist automatically once the work is put into tangible form. For additional protection, original works can be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. By contrast, trademarks are … Read more
- Can you print song lyrics on a T-shirt and sell them?Answer: While words or short phrases in and of themselves are not necessarily protected by copyright, you should be very reluctant to ever place song lyrics on a T-shirt or other media without first obtaining permission. Particularly, if the lyrics selected are catchy, they could be protected by other doctrines such as trademark law. Even … Read more