A List of Copyright Rules & Procedures

By Shelly Morgan

Copyrights protect original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. They prohibit anyone other than the author from copying or performing the work without the author's permission. Violation of a copyright is called infringement. If your copyright has been infringed, you may be entitled to damages. These protections are provided by the U.S. federal government. They are embodied in Title 17 of the U.S. Code. State protections also exist, but these vary from state to state.


The owner of a copyright is usually the author of the work. An employer, or someone who hired another to prepare the work, can also be the author of a copyrighted work. Such works are called works for hire. They can include commissioned works, exams and answer sheets made by teachers, and product instruction manuals. In these cases, the employer is considered the author of the work.

Defenses to Infringement

The doctrine of fair use provides a defense to some forms of infringement. Under this doctrine, the law permits copying portions of a protected work for legitimate purposes including criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research. Factors used to determine whether the copying is permissible includes whether it was used for a commercial or nonprofit purpose, amount and substantiality of the copied portion, and effect on the market of the work. Compulsory licensing limits the exclusive rights of a copyright holder to bar distribution of recordings of nondramatic musical works under certain circumstances. This may protect commercial music distributors who distribute work that was lawfully fixed in a transferable media.

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Copyrights don't last forever. The copyright for works created on or after January 1, 1978 lasts for your entire life plus 70 years after your death. This allows your heirs to continue making money from your creations. The copyright for anonymous works and works for hire is 95 years from first publication or 120 years from the time they were created, whichever expires first.

Value of Registration

Your work is automatically copyrighted as soon as it is fixed in tangible form, such as a writing or recording. However, you may have problems taking action against an infringer if you do not register the copyright. If you register your work within five years of publication, the registration is prima facie evidence that the work belongs to you. If you register within three months of publication, you may be entitled to statutory damages and attorney fees. Otherwise, you will only be entitled to actual damages you suffered, such as loss of profits.


You can register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office online or via the mail. As of 2013, the fee for online registration is $35.00. The fee for mail registration is $65.00. Online registration can be done using electronic software called eCO, which is available at the U.S. Copyright Office website. To register electronically, you must identify the title, authors, other claimants, persons or organizations granted permission to use the work, date of publication and your contact information. You must deposit your work with the Copyright Office, either by uploading it or mailing them a hard copy.

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How to Copyright Something in Canada


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Poetry writing is a fun way to exercise one's creative writing skills. Poetry may be published free of charge on a person's website. Other sites offer publication of poetry books for a fee. Poetry is a type of literary work that is protected by copyright laws.

How to Copyright Choreography

A copyright affords protection to creators and owners of unique intellectual property that is fixed in some permanent, tangible form such as a written notation, book, video, sound recording, or drawing. To be eligible for copyright protection, your choreography must be original. Under U.S. copyright law, as soon as an original work of authorship, such as choreography, has been created in fixed form, then copyright protection exists from that time. This gives the author or his agent to rightfully claim copyright. However, it is much better to register the copyright, because it creates a public notice that you own the rights and enables you to sue in federal court if someone uses your choreography without your permission. It is important to note that choreography that has not been made into a fixed form is not eligible for copyright protection.

DVD Copyright Rules

United States copyright law is designed to protect the rights of people who create artistic work and those who purchase the right to use such works. DVD copyrights may be registered through the U.S. Copyright Office, but a DVD does not have to be registered to be copyrighted. Copyright protection immediately flows to an item the moment it is created in some tangible form; a DVD is considered a tangible form.

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