Articles Posted in Copyright Law

How do I register my copyright?Copyright-300x168

To register a work, submit a completed application form, and a nonreturnable copy or copies of the work to be registered to the U.S. Copyright Office. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Registration Procedures., and Circular 4, Copyright Office Fees”.

 
Where can I get application forms?

See SL-35.

 
Can I file online?

Yes. The Copyright Office offers online registration through its electronic Copyright Office (eCO). See SL-35.
What is the registration fee?

See Circular 4, Copyright Fees.

 
Do I have to send in my work? Do I get it back?

You must send the required copy or copies of the work to be registered. Your copies will not be returned. If you register online using eCO eService, you may attach an electronic copy of your deposit. However, even if you register online, if the Library of Congress requires a hard-copy deposit of your work, you must send what the Library defines as the “best edition” of your work. For further information, see Circular 7b, Best Edition of Published Copyrighted Works for the Collection of the Library of Congress, and Circular 7d, Mandatory Deposit of Copies or Phonorecords for the Library of Congress. Upon their deposit in the Copyright Office, under sections 407 and 408 of the copyright law, all copies and identifying material, including those deposited in connection with claims that have been refused registration, are the property of the U.S. government.

 
Will my deposit be damaged by security measures in place on Capitol Hill?

To avoid damage to your hard-copy deposit caused by necessary security measures, package the following items in boxes rather than envelopes for mailing to the Copyright Office:

  • electronic media such as audiocassettes, videocassettes, CDs, and DVDs
  • microform
  • photographs
  • slick advertisements, color photocopies, and other print items

 

May I register more than one work on the same application? Where do I list the titles?

You may register unpublished works as a collection on one application with one title for the entire collection if certain conditions are met. It is not necessary to list the individual titles in your collection. Published works may only be registered as a collection if they were actually first published as a collection and if other requirements have been met. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Registration Procedures.”

 
Do I have to use my real name on the form? Can I use a stage name or a pen name?

There is no legal requirement that the author be identified by his or her real name on the application form. For further information, see FL 101, Pseudonyms. If filing under a fictitious name, check the “Pseudonymous” box when giving information about the authors.

 
Will my personal information be available to the public?

Yes. Please be aware that when you register your claim to a copyright in a work with the U.S. Copyright Office, you are making a public record. All the information you provide on your copyright registration is available to the public and will be available on the Internet.

 
How long does the registration process take, and when will I receive my certificate?

The time the Copyright Office requires to process an application varies, depending on the number of applications the Office is receiving and clearing at the time of submission and the extent of questions associated with the application. Current Processing Times

 
Can I submit my manuscript on a computer disk?

No. Floppy disks and other removal media such as Zip disks, except for CD-ROMs, are not acceptable. Therefore, the Copyright Office still generally requires a printed copy or audio recording of the work for deposit. However, if you register online using eCO eService, you may attach an electronic copy of your deposit. However, even if you register online, if the Library of Congress requires a hard-copy deposit of your work, you must send what the Library defines as the “best edition” of your work. For further information, see Circular 7b, Best Edition of Published Copyrighted Works for the Collection of the Library of Congress, and Circular 7d, Mandatory Deposit of Copies or Phonorecords for the Library of Congress.

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What does copyright protect?Untitled-300x249
Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.  The U.S. Copyright Office has more information in Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “What Works Are Protected.”

Can I copyright my website?
The original authorship appearing on a website may be protected by copyright. This includes writings, artwork, photographs, and other forms of authorship protected by copyright. Procedures for registering the contents of a website may be found in Circular 66, Copyright Registration for Online Works.

Can I copyright my domain name?
Copyright law does not protect domain names. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit organization that has assumed the responsibility for domain name system management, administers the assigning of domain names through accredited registers.

How do I protect my recipe?
A mere listing of ingredients is not protected under copyright law. However, where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a collection of recipes as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection. Note that if you have secret ingredients to a recipe that you do not wish to be revealed, you should not submit your recipe for registration, because applications and deposit copies are public records. See FL 122, Recipes.

Can I copyright the name of my band?
No. Names are not protected by copyright law. Some names may be protected under trademark law. Contact an intellectual property attorney or the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for further information or see Circular 34Copyright Protection Not Available for Names, Titles, or Short Phrases.

How do I copyright a name, title, slogan, or logo?
Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases. In some cases, these things may be protected as trademarks. Contact an intellectual property attorney or the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for further information or see Circular 34.  However, copyright protection may be available for logo artwork that contains sufficient authorship. In some circumstances, an artistic logo may also be protected as a trademark.

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Washington, D.C. – Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Tom Marino (R-Pa) proposed legislation to create an alternative forum to facilitate the adjudication of “small” copyright claims. 

H.R. 5757, titled the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2016, would establish a Copyright Claims Board (“CCB”) within the U.S. Copyright Office. Adjudication with the CCB is intended to be simpler and less expensive than proceeding in federal court. These cases would be heard by a CCB panel of three Copyright Claims Officers. Adjudicating in the CCB forum would be voluntary and respondents could opt out. 

The jurisdiction under CASE would be limited to civil claims of copyright infringement of $30,000 or less in damages. The CCB would also be authorized to hear claims of abusive takedown notifications under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. 

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The U.S. Copyright Office, a part of the Library of Congress, issued a final rule adopting exemptions to the provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) that prohibits circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works.

The DMCA was enacted in 1998 to implement various elements of copyright-related World Intellectual Property Organization treaties. Included in the DMCA was a prohibition against circumventing technological measures employed by or on behalf of copyright owners to protect access to their works. The DMCA also provided for exemptions to this prohibition, which are issued by the Librarian of Congress following a rulemaking proceeding. In the course of this proceeding, the Librarian determines which “noninfringing uses by persons who are users of a copyrighted work are, or are likely to be, adversely affected by the prohibition against circumvention in the succeeding three-year period” and, through the final rule, exempts that class from the prohibition for that three-year period.

Under the DMCA, this final rule must consider “(i) the availability for use of copyrighted works; (ii) the availability for use of works for nonprofit archival, preservation, and educational purposes; (iii) the impact that the prohibition on the circumvention of technological measures applied to copyrighted works has on criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research; (iv) the effect of circumvention of technological measures on the market for or value of copyrighted works; and (v) such other factors as the Librarian considers appropriate.”

The third element of a criminal prosecution for copyright infringement requires that the 

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government establish that the defendant possessed criminal intent to infringe the holder’s copyrighted work. Courts generally agree that a “willful” act must be “an act intentionally done in violation of the law.”

However, in defining willfulness when it comes to copyright infringement, courts differ in their interpretations of which of the two acts – copying or infringing – requires willful intent. The minority view, endorsed by the Second and Ninth Circuits, holds that “willful” means only intent to copy, not intent to infringe. The majority view, however, looks for intent to infringe rather than merely intent to copy, thus, requiring the government to demonstrate a voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty.

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The principal criminal statute protecting copyrighted works is 17 U.S.C. § 506(a), which provides that “[a]ny person who infringes a copyright willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain” shall be punished as provided in 18 U.S.C. § 2319. Section 2319 provides, in pertinent part, that a 5-year felony shall apply if the offense “consists of the reproduction or distribution, during any 180-day period, of at least 10 copies or phonorecords, of 1 or more copyrighted works, with a retail value of more than $2,500.” 18 U.S.C. § 2319(b)(1).

The 1992 amendments to section 2319 have made it possible to pursue felony-level sanctions for violations relating to all types of copyrighted works, including computer software and other works written, stored or transmitted in a digital format, if the other elements of the statute are satisfied. Felony penalties attach only to violations of a victim’s rights of reproduction or distribution in the quantity stated. A misdemeanor shall apply if the defendant does not meet the numerical and monetary thresholds, or if the defendant is involved in the infringement of the other rights bestowed upon the copyright holder, including the right to prepare derivative works, or the right to publicly perform a copyrighted work.

There are four essential elements to a charge of criminal copyright infringement: (1) that a valid copyright; (2) was infringed by the defendant; (3) willfully; and (4) for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain. Attempts to infringe are prohibited to the same extent as the completed act. Conspiracies to violate the Copyright Act can be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. § 371. A minority of courts also require that the government prove the absence of a first sale, and refer to this as a fifth element of a section 506(a) offense. However, the majority position is that the absence of a first sale is an affirmative defense.

Historically, copyright protection had been provided through a dual system under which the federal government, by statute, provided limited monopolies for intellectual property concurrently with state statutory and common laws that established roughly equivalent protections. In 1976, Congress fundamentally changed this system by introducing a single, preemptive federal statutory scheme. The federal preemption provision, codified at 17 U.S.C. § 301(a), states that:

On and after January 1, 1978, all legal or equitable rights that are equivalent to any of the exclusive rights within the general scope of copyright as specified by section 106 in works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression and come within the subject matter of copyright as specified by sections 102 and 103, whether created before or after that date and whether published or unpublished, are governed exclusively by this title. Thereafter, no person is entitled to any such right or equivalent right in any such work under the common law or statutes of any State.

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As stated in the legislative history, “[a]s long as a work fits within one of the general subject matter categories [of federal statutory copyrights], the bill prevents the States from protecting it even if it fails to achieve federal statutory copyright because it is too minimal or lacking in originality to qualify, or because it has fallen into the public domain.” H.R. Rep. No. 1476, 94th Cong., 2d Sess. 51, 131 (1976).

The law of copyright is codified at Title 17 of the United States Code. The principal prohibitions relating to criminal copyright infringement are set forth at 17 U.S.C. § 506(a) and 18 U.S.C. § 2319. Titles 17 and 18 also contain a number of other provisions that make illegal certain practices which are inconsistent with Congress’ copyright protection scheme.

In the past several years, these criminal sanctions have been revised significantly, and the penalties for criminal infringement of copyrights have been increased. Under the Copyright Felony Act of 1992, infringement of a copyrighted work may now constitute a felony under federal law, depending on the number of infringing copies reproduced or distributed in a 180-day period, and their retail value.

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