In copyright law for something to receive copyright protection, it must be an “original work of authorship” fixed in any tangible medium of expression, such as a book, film, or work of art.  A copyright gives the creator several exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce, adapt, distribute, publicly perform, and publicly display the work.

Copyrighted material eventually becomes public domain, meaning it is no longer protected.  Guidelines for the length of copyright vary.  For example, if the work was created within the last few decades, then it will be protected for the life of the author plus seventy years after his or her death.  Works created by joint authors are copyrighted for seventy years after the last surviving author’s death.  However, if it was created before 1978, other criteria may apply.

Registration with the Copyright Office provides the owner with protections, including the ability to sue potential infringers.  However, there are some exceptions.  Fair use laws allow another user to use the mark in a way that may otherwise be infringing and is a common occurrence.  The court will consider how much of the work is being used in relation to the whole, whether it is for commercial or educational purposes, the nature of the copyrighted work, and the effect of the use on the potential market.


Copyright law is fraught with complex details and exceptions.  Our firm assists clients in the registration of copyrights for all types of original works, including software.  To learn more about navigating the registration process or enforcing your rights, contact us.