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How does copyrights work?

Copyright is hell important. You can guess right away from the word itself that it has to do with 'rights.' Surprised?

First, let's find out the definition.

"Copyright" according to Wikipedia

Copyright is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the exclusive right to make copies of a creative work, usually for a limited time. The creative work may be in a literary, artistic, educational, or musical form. Copyright is intended to protect the original expression of an idea in the form of a creative work, but not the idea itself.

Simply put, copyright refers to a form of intellectual property protection that can be enforced by law. It gives the author of an original creative work a bundle of rights. Here, the original creative work may refer to an artwork, a book or in our case, a song or audio file.

What Do Copyrights Protect?

Copyrights protect original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression. In other words, only the expression of the creative works that are perceptible and recorded are protected. This also means that public or intangible things - such as facts, ideas, systems or methods of operation - are not protected by copyrights. Those things may be protected by other forms of intellectual property protection.

In order to obtain a copyright in a work there must be some degree of creativity, no matter how crude, obvious, or humble. That is, the work must be creative in some form.

When Does Copyright Protection Begin?

Copyright protection begins immediately after a work of sufficient originality (or creativity) is fixed or recorded in a tangible medium perceivable by human or machine. As soon as that is done, the author now has a copyright in that creative work.

So once someone has written original lyrics on a piece of paper, or have a recorded copy of an original song, then that person has what is called a “common law copyright.” Registering with your local copyright office may not be mandatory; however doing so would help in enforcing exclusive rights for the copyright in case of any legal ownership issues.

What Rights Does a Copyright Provide?

A copyright provides the owner the exclusive right to reproduce the work in copies, prepare derivative works based upon the work, distribute copies of the work to the public, perform the work publicly, display the work publicly and sell the work for a certain period of time.  

How Long Do Copyrights Last?

For most copyrighted works, the term of the copyright is the life of the author plus 70 years. If there are multiple owners, then the term lasts for 70 years after the last surviving author's death.

Is the Copyright Protection International?

There is no "international copyright" that protects an author's works all over the globe. Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends on the laws of the country. Luckily, international copyright treaties and conventions have greatly simplified such situations. It is always a good idea to see what options there are to protect your creative works throughout the entire world with your agent, distributor or representative.

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