Copyrights: How to Protect Something That Is Photocopied

by Victoria McGrath
Copyright law includes photocopies of the work.

Copyright law includes photocopies of the work.

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The owner of a copyright holds exclusive rights over the copyright material, including the right to reproduce and distribute copies of the work, even if the work is photocopied. Copying copyrighted work via a photocopier can be copyright infringement if the photocopied content is used to share with colleagues, customers, an entire organization or the general public, for example. The question of how to protect copyrighted content when it is photocopied is the same as protecting copyrighted content. Except for fair use or if some other exemption applies, only the holder of the copyright or his agent has the right to make and distribute copies, including photocopiesof his copyrighted work. Copyright law allows copyright holders to sue for lost profits or statutory damages that result from copyright infringement, in trials that are usually long and expensive. Federal registration provides the best protection over the original works of authorship, over any additional copies and over any unauthorized use of the material. The owner should proactively protect his work, through federal registration and deposit the original copy with the Library of Congress, noting the copyright date and owner's name on each copy. Subsequent registration with the U.S. Custom Service can deter illegal importation of unauthorized copies.

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Copyright Content Protection

Intellectual property laws include copyrights, trademarks and patents. A copyright specifically covers original works of authorship, as creatively expressed in a tangible form. A copyright applies to literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, produced as books, poems, plays, movies, songs, sheet music, drawings, paintings, sketches, etchings and numerous other creative materials. Architectural and visual arts may be registered as pictorial, graphic and sculptural works. A copyright protects the original work, its entire contents, its individual parts, identical replicas and electronic, or photocopied copies.

Tangible Form Requirement

The author secures copyrights in the work, from the moment he creates the original work and fixes it in a tangible form. The owner does not need to publish the work to qualify for copyright protection under federal law. The 1976 Copyright Act applies to published and non-published works, as long as the author fixes the work in a tangible form. Once fixed in a tangible form, the owner holds copyrights over the original work and any subsequent copies of the work.

Benefits of Federal Copyright Registration

Each copyright owner needs to protect his own creative work and any photocopies from unauthorized use. Federal registration offers the best protection because it creates a public record of the copyright material, requires the original copy to be deposited in the Library of Congress and includes the name of the copyright owner and date of filing. Federal registration provides a right to sue for copyright infringement and legal evidence of a valid copyright. Copyright infringement refers to any unauthorized use of illegal photocopies.

Prevention Against Unauthorized Use

Once the copyright owner secures a federal copyright, he can register his copyright material with the U.S. Customs Service. Registration with the U.S. Custom Service helps prevent illegal importation of unauthorized photocopies and electronic copies of the copyright material. Authorized copies should include a notice of copyright on the title page (including the letter C in a circle, the date of copyright and the copyright owner's name) with a statement of all rights reserved and no unauthorized reproductions allowed.