Every where in the world as well as the United States, there are millions of people who create works in art, music, literature, design, film, drama, research and many other fields. All this original work in a tangible form is called “Intellectual Property” and is protected legally by the Copyright Law. If you are an author, publisher or the creator of any such copyrightable work, it is more than essential for you to be aware of the Copyright Law. With the internet, many projects on almost every topic are available to everyone using the internet. This is good for serious searchers but a treat for copyright law violators. A study in 2005 by the World Customs Organization declared that more than half a billion dollars were involved in plagiarism and piracy of books in this year.
Every business in the United States can be copied and used to personal interest; they are all susceptible to piracy. Small businesses and individual writers are at a greater risk as the intellectual information they provide easily made public and generally not copyright protected. Due to the internet, this theft of original works has become easier therefore, the owner of any such work must be aware of his rights of protection.
The US law protects all original works in music, art, literature, design or any other form of work. Whether it is published or not is not the condition; any tangible, copyrightable work is protected under this law. This Copyright Law was passed in 1976 and it authorizes the owner to reproduce, alter, broadcast, distribute, perform or publish his work. He may also license, sell, donate or leave the work to his heirs. Any violation of these rights is addressed by the court and if the decision goes in the owner’s favour, the court may order surrender of the alleged work.
Obtaining a copyright is not a very long and tedious process as many people think it is. In fact, when an idea is created as an expression and the moment it acquires a tangible form, it is copyrighted. It is still a better idea to register your work with the United States Copyright Office to attain legal authority over your work to be prepared against any copyright infringement.
The Copyright Law protects a work till 70 years after the author’s death or if it is a group of creators, then 70 years from the death of the last surviving author. For anonymous works and those created for hire, this time extends to 120 years.
There are no concrete laws for copyright protection internationally but most countries have agreed to Berne Convention on the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and/or the Universal Copyright Convention. If you still have doubts about the law, it is best to see a copyright attorney.