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Copyright Law

At the law firm of Sanders & Parks, our attorneys are committed to helping you protect your intellectual property. In addition to offering you assistance in protecting your ideas and creations, we want to offer you guidance on how to maximize their value. Our lawyers have been helping people in Phoenix, Arizona, and nationwide for more than 30 years. From intellectual property registration to intellectual property litigation, our experience can work for you.

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Copyright Law

A copyright grants its owner exclusive rights in an original work of authorship, including the right to reproduce the work; the right to adapt the work or to prepare derivative works; the right to distribute copies of the work to the public; and the right to publicly perform or display the work. The work must exist in a tangible medium of expression, such as a painting, novel or CD. Copyright law protects the expression embodied by the work, but not the idea behind it.

A copyright provides economic rights in the work so that its owner can reap financial benefits from it. Unlike the copyright laws of many civil law countries such as France, which protects the author's moral rights in the work, U.S. copyright law generally does not protect the author's right to ensure the integrity of the work. A U.S. copyright typically lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. Works for hire enjoy protection for 95 years after publication or 120 years after creation (whichever comes first). Contact an experienced copyright lawyer from Sanders & Parks, P.C. in Phoenix, AZ, to discuss your intellectual property rights.

What Copyright Law Protects

In addition to protecting works such as a books, articles, computer programs, visual or graphic artwork, dramatic works, motion pictures, sound recordings, choreographic works and architectural works, copyright law covers certain types of compilations and derivative works. In the case of "work for hire" and some commissioned works, the employer or person for whom the work is prepared is considered to be the "author" for copyright purposes (and therefore the copyright owner) unless a written agreement states otherwise.

The Fair Use Doctrine

Generally, one may not copy or publicly display a work whose copyright is owned by another. The doctrine of fair use, however, presents an exception to this rule. The fair use doctrine applies when the use is for educational, research, news reporting or criticism purposes — typically in ways that are noncommercial, do not harm the market for the copyrighted work and do not copy too much of the work. Parody has also been considered fair use when it uses just enough of the original material to convey its message about that material.

The Copyright Registration Process

Copyright exists in a qualifying original work as soon as the expression is fixed in a tangible medium. When you write down an original story on a piece of paper, for example, that expression is copyrighted. Formally registering your copyright is not required, but it is recommended. Works whose copyrights are registered have stronger protection against copyright infringement in federal courts. To register the copyright, you must send a copy of the work to the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress, along with an application fee and the proper documentation. An attorney can help with this process and other copyright-related matters.

The registration application for a compilation (a specially selected and arranged group of works or data) or a derivative work (material based on a pre-existing work) must identify any other works upon which the new work was based, as well as how the new work exceeds the scope of the prior work. The Register of Copyrights will either issue a certificate of registration or send a letter of refusal to the applicant, denying copyright protection. Applicants can request that the Copyright Office reconsider a refusal.

License or Transfer of Ownership

Once an author has a copyright in a work, the author may transfer part or all of the rights to another person or entity, just as one would transfer real or tangible property. Copyrights may be transferred by the author's will, by intestate succession, or by any other means of property transfer; they may also be licensed or assigned for a specified duration of time. All transfers of ownership must be made in writing and signed by the owner. Licenses may be granted orally, however, without a written contract. It is important to protect your rights in these contracts, which can be complex and have far-reaching effects.

Contact a Lawyer

Contact an experienced intellectual property attorney at Sanders & Parks, P.C. in Phoenix, AZ, to look after your interests.

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