A copyright is a form of protection granted for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. These types of works include literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works. Examples of copyrightable works are songs, movies, computer software, paintings, and novels. A work is copyrighted the moment it is fixed in a tangible medium. Like trademarks, it is not necessary to register a copyright with the Copyright Office. However, registration can provide certain benefits. For example, if a copyrighted work becomes the subject of litigation and the work is registered, the copyright holder may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees. Additionally, if the work is registered within five years of publication, the registration is considered prima facie evidence in court. Unlike trademarks, copyrights do not have the potential to provide protection forever. The term of a copyright is based on several factors, however, as a general rule, the protection for works created after January 1, 1978, lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. Further, works created after January 1, 1978 are not subject to renewal, which allows maintenance of copyrights to be incredibly convenient and inexpensive. Copyright protection becomes important when infringement occurs. Copyright infringement is when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.
Copyrights have become particularly relevant of late due to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby. Copyright protection for The Great Gatsby expired on January 1st this year. The expiration has allowed novelist Michael Farris Smith to publish a derivative work titled “Nick,” which is a prequel to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work.
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