Our lives are made more complete by the creations of gifted artists and authors. While artists and authors love their work, society has long recognized that there must be some mechanism for them to potentially reap the rewards for their work. This mechanism has generally included giving the exclusive rights to the copying and control of their work. In the United States, these rights are granted in the Constitution, which states that "The Congress shall have power . . . to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited terms to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” U.S. Constitution, Article I, § 8, cl. 8.
Under U.S. Law, copyright protects what are known as Original Works of Artistic Expression Fixed In A Tangible Medium . By statute, this includes the work itself, or anything derived from the work itself. It includes any tangible thing that can be perceived, reproduced, or communicated. Specifically covered by U.S. Law are works within the following categories:
(1) Literary works, including computer software,
(2) Musical works, including any accompanying words;
(3) Dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
(4) Pantomimes and choreographic works;
(5) Pictorial, graphic, sculptural work, jewelry, and body art;
(6) Motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
(7) Sound recordings; and
(8) Architectural works.
An important point to note is that copyright protects the expression of ideas, but does not protect the ideas themselves. Nor does the protection extend to any procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery. Copyright is limited to the tangible expression of the idea.
Next we'll talk about the precise rights authors and artists have under copyright, and more about how to perfect those rights. In the meantime, email us if you have any questions, or if you'd like a free copy of our pamphlet discussing copyright law as it effects small businesses and individuals.