There are many laws and guidelines related to applying for copyright registration, the basis for bringing a lawsuit for copyright infringement and what constitutes fair use under copyright law. Although most copyright law is established by the United States Copyright Code and common law applications by judges, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act relates more directly to modern applications of the law. Copyright laws are codified by statute, but many other copyright guidelines exist, such as the first sale doctrine and the doctrine of fair use.
Protections and Infringement
Copyrights generally grant an exclusive set of rights to redistribute, copy, transfer, display or make derivative works of the original copyrighted work. Copyright protection is generally available for literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. It does not protect facts, ideas, systems, methods, short phrases or slogans, or trade names. Copyright infringement occurs when a third party violates one of the exclusive use rights belonging to the owner of a valid copyright. Parties who engage in piracy or other forms of copyright infringement can be subject to a variety of penalties, including large fines or jail time. However, there are multiple defenses to claims of copyright infringement, one being fair use.
Copyrights can be assigned, sold or otherwise transferred to third parties. Although copyright protection grants an exclusive set of rights, the duration of copyright protection is limited. For most works registered on or after January 1, 1978 copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For works that are assigned to third parties or created before January 1, 1978 the duration of copyright protection will vary.
Fair use provides a defense to a claim of copyright infringement when certain specific conditions are met. When applying the doctrine of fair use, courts look to many factors including the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount of the copyrighted work used and the effect of the use upon the potential market for the copyrighted work. Generally, fair use is most applicable in academic settings, but it can also be used as a defense when a copyrighted work attempts to parody another copyrighted work. Some examples of fair use include using copyrighted materials for a nonprofit purpose or sampling the copyrighted material of a third party in order to create an entirely new work.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or the DMCA, is a body of law that was developed to deal with the implications of copyrighted materials being used with modern computing technologies. The DMCA provides safe harbor provisions to protect Internet service providers and website hosts from claims of copyright infringement provided they place certain notices on their websites and take down any copyrighted material when the copyright holder notifies the host that the copyrighted material is being misused. The DMCA also contains anti-circumvention provisions prohibiting the circumvention of access controls associated with copyrighted technologies.