Copyright law is a powerful legal instrument that protects creatives and their original works from theft or unauthorized use by other parties. Copyright is broadly applicable to many types of creative assets and intellectual properties, such as novels, films, designs, and music. Registering your work with the United States Copyright Office and retaining a qualified intellectual property attorney to protect it is an important investment in your legacy. However, those protections are not unlimited.
Some of the exceptions to copyright protections include:
In addition to fair use exceptions and limits to the scope of copyright law, copyright is also limited by time. Copyright protection is powerful, but it does not last forever.
Copyright is governed by federal statutes, so the length of copyright protections is typically the same from state to state. Copyright law has existed in one form or another in the United States since 1790. If you wish to know how copyright law can protect you, it is best to focus on modern copyright law as defined under the Copyright Act of 1976 and administered by the United States Copyright Office.
For works created after the year 1977, copyright protection is automatically granted for a period lasting 70 years after the author’s death. This means that if the original author holds their own copyright for the duration of their natural life, they can pass on their intellectual property to their heirs like any other asset (or sell it as part of their end-of-life estate plan). The heirs can then benefit from copyright protections for 70 years.
On occasion, renewals of copyrights will be granted by the government. This usually requires proving that allowing the copyrighted work to revert to the public domain would do significant harm to the copyright holder. If you hold a copyright that is due to expire, and believe that you qualify for an extension, a qualified copyright attorney from Four Reasons Legal in Denver can help you prepare a winning legal strategy and make your case to the authorities.
An internal 1961 study at the US Copyright Office determined that fewer than 15% of copyrighted works were being renewed, with many of these being major Hollywood films. Copyright lapse and renewal can result in complex legal issues, such as a film having its copyright renewed while its soundtrack enters the public domain.
The laws surrounding copyright and other intellectual property matters can be fairly dynamic. Lobbyists for major motion picture companies and media conglomerates often push Congress and the executive branch to amend copyright laws in ways that are favorable to copyright holders. Companies that hold intellectual properties that have remained profitable for many decades obviously do not want the copyrights for these properties to enter the public domain. If they did, any creator or artist could profit from unlimited, unlicensed derivative works.
A: Modern copyright law grants copyright holders five specific rights. These include the right to:
The copyright attorneys at Four Reasons Legal can help you fully understand the scope of each of the rights you have as a copyright holder.
A: The default duration for copyright protections is the same in Colorado as it is throughout most of the United States. Copyrighted works are protected throughout the original author’s lifetime and for an additional 70 years following their death. The original author’s heirs or beneficiaries will then be able to control the rights to the original work for those 70 years.
A: In most cases, the only factor considered in determining the duration of a copyright is time. A typical copyright expires 70 years after the original author’s date of death. If a copyright holder petitions for an extension, the factors considered will typically be economic. A media company largely known for a single series or brand, for example, might argue that it undermines their reputation and their ability to continue to do business if parts of that brand are returned to the public domain, thus resulting in serious economic damage to their company and employees.
A: Yes, the date of publication can affect certain aspects of copyright law. The current legislation governing copyright law in the United States is the Copyright Act of 1976. This means that any works published in 1977 or earlier will be subject to different copyright laws—and, potentially, different copyright durations. This can get confusing due to new legislation that changes copyright laws retroactively for certain works. For example, some works published before 1978 originally had a 47-year default copyright term, but this was extended to 67 years by copyright legislation passed in 1998. A qualified intellectual property attorney can help you navigate copyright questions for older works.
Four Reasons Legal proudly offers high-end legal services to a wide range of clients throughout the greater Denver area. We have world-class intellectual property lawyers ready to assist creators and organizations of all sizes with any copyright, trademark, or brand infringement issues. We can offer timely, effective legal strategies whether you are trying to register a new work with the US Copyright Office or protect yourself from someone fraudulently using your copyrighted material through litigation. Contact us today for a no-pressure consultation with one of our copyright law experts.