Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Intellectual Property 101: What is Copyright and What does it protect?

 Copyright refers to a set of rights that a person can exclusively exercise for a specific duration of time in exchange for ‘public disclosure’ of the work. The rights are provided by the creator of the work or sometimes by the state. Any person who owns the copyright of a work has the right to exploit that work in any form for the fixed duration of time. After the fixed duration of time, the work cannot be exclusively used by the copyright owner as it enters the ‘public domain’.

            After the work enters public domain, its fair use does not require the copyright owner’s permission, but any other use apart from fair use requires the owner’s permission. Under the United States Copyright Law fair use includes criticism, teaching, reporting, research and library archiving of the work. The work can be used in these forms without violating the copyright law.

             Copyright law was limited to protecting books initially. But as intellectual theft increased, many literary and non-literary works like paintings, maps, motion pictures, photographs, drawings and even computer programs sought copyright protection. Concept of copyright was used in antiquity and copyright protecting The Statue of Anne in Britain in as early as 1709 is a perfect instance.

              Copyright did not receive importance in early America as the economy of the colonies depended heavily on agriculture that had no place for copyright. Thus, only three private copyright acts were passed pre 1783. After a lot of deliberation Copyright Act of 1790 was passed and it granted copyright for a term of fourteen years from initiation of the work. It also provided the provision for renewal after the term and it even covered maps and charts.

    Presently copyright protects a spectrum of intellectual property. A website is another form of a person’s identity. The intellectual work on the website is the reflection of a person’s work and vision. A person deserves the copyright for his authorship on the website. Thus, the original authorship in a website can be protected by copyright.

     But copyright denies protection for domain names. Also, if you are looking to keep your secret ingredient of a recipe a secret copyright cannot help as your application copy becomes public records. Another field where copyright does not exist is names. Names of bands, people cannot be copyright protected. Titles, slogans and short phrases cannot be protected by copyright but they can be protected as ‘trademark’.

    Unpublished work and architecture can be protected but ideas, sightings and star named after a person cannot be protected by copyright and the presence of copyright is instrumental in preventing in intellectual theft of any form.

For more information, check out the following links:

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