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Simple Facts about Copyright in the United States

In this fast moving world copyright is a popular subject. Before we get to some particulars, the U.S. law was updated in 1977 and if you create it, the copyright is yours for your life plus 50 years. If the copyright is owned by your employer, it is 75 years from the date of publication or 100 years from the date of creation, whichever comes first.

Here are the basics to understanding and getting a copyright:

  1. You can copyright anything you create that is tangible – a book, an article, a website, CD-Roms, video game, music, software code, sculptures, dance steps, and more BUT not an idea! To be able to copyright it, you must have a physical form of your copyrighted object.
  2. Declare your copyright. In the U.S., what you create is yours and by putting © 2012 Your Name, you have effectively copyrighted your creation. It can be that simple.
  3. You don’t have to register your copyright, but it is affordable – details are at: United States Copyright office website and Frequently Asked Questions. For each item you want to copyright, the cost is $35.
  4. If you create something for someone else – think painting, photograph, marketing materials – copyright is usually part of the upfront discussion. This conversation needs to include the digital rights and you will probably have a document to sign giving them rights to your creation.
  5. Facts are not copyright protected. For example, my novel about herbs and gardening would be copyright protected but my facts about the growing of the herbs is not. Both the United States Copyright Office and Nolo Press have great discussions on Copyrighting, Fair Use, Permissions, Licensing and consigning your work.

Happy Creating and checkout below to more views of copyrighting errors and how to avoid them.


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