Comic Copyright Laws

By Holly Cameron

Copyright law protects original works from unlicensed copying or reproduction. The copyright belongs to the creator of the work and exists from the moment the work is produced in a fixed form. Copyright extends to both pictorial and written expressions and therefore includes both the writing and the pictures contained in comics. Depending on the nature and style of the comic, it can be classified as either a work of visual arts or a literary work. The Copyright Act can be found in Title 17 of the United States Code.

Copyright law protects original works from unlicensed copying or reproduction. The copyright belongs to the creator of the work and exists from the moment the work is produced in a fixed form. Copyright extends to both pictorial and written expressions and therefore includes both the writing and the pictures contained in comics. Depending on the nature and style of the comic, it can be classified as either a work of visual arts or a literary work. The Copyright Act can be found in Title 17 of the United States Code.

Copyright Protection

Section 102 of the Copyright Act provides that copyright protection exists in original works fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright does not extend to ideas or concepts but only to the physical form of the captions and stories contained within a comic book. The creator of the work owns the copyright and has an exclusive right to copy, sell or distribute the work. If a comic is created by more than one person, they jointly own the copyright, unless they agree otherwise.

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Duration of Copyright

The creator of a comic has copyright protection for the duration of his life plus an additional 70 years. After that time, the comic becomes part of the public domain and may be copied or reproduced without breaching copyright law.

Registration

Copyright exists from the moment a work is created, and it is not necessary to register the work to benefit from the protection of copyright law. For evidential purposes, it can be a good idea to register the work so that a record exists. If you want to register a comic book, contact the United States Copyright Office and apply for registration either online or using paper forms. Online registration is quicker and cheaper.

Work for Hire

Although copyright law provides that the creator of a work owns the copyright, this does not apply to employees or individuals who have been commissioned to work for someone else, according to Section 201 of the Copyright Act. If, therefore, you create a comic while working for a publisher, the copyright belongs to your employer, unless your employment contract states otherwise.

Fair Use

Section 107 of the Copyright Act allows an individual or organization to copy or reproduce any copyright work, including comics, for the purpose of criticism, comment, teaching, news reporting or scholarship. Factors to be considered in determining fair use include whether it is for commercial or non-profit purposes and the effect on the market for the copyrighted work.

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References

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How to Copyright in Illinois

Copyright law in the state of Illinois, like all states, is governed by federal law. The U.S. Constitution vests in Congress the power establish copyrights, which was most recently done by enacting the Copyright Act of 1976. The act gives the authors of original works exclusive rights in their works, which applies to the work as soon as it is created in a fixed form, such as a document, video or audio recording. There is no requirement to register the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office; however, registered copyrights receive greater protection and remedies than unregistered copyrights.

Are Advertising Brochures Copyrighted?

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A copyright protects an original musical work from unlicensed reproduction, sale or copying. Copyright protection exists in a musical work from the moment it is created in a tangible form. Although registration with the United States Copyright Office is not required by law, it is recommended as a method of establishing a permanent record of your creative work. Title 17 of the United States Code sets out the laws relating to copyright in the Copyright Act of 1976, as amended.

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