Copyright law affords the creators of original forms of material expression – such as written works, films, and recorded performance – exclusive use and ownership in their own works. It also provides penalties for those who attempt to profit from another’s original material without the permission of the copyright holder. This particular form of intellectual property protection is key to ensuring that those engaged in creative works are rewarded for their originality.

A copyright exists as soon as it becomes fixed in a tangible form, as when paint is laid onto canvas or musical notes are written on paper or saved to hard drive. While registration of a copyright is not required for protection, it helps to make a case easier to prove if an infringement occurs. Infringement is act of violating another’s copyright by profiting from their work without permission or attempting to pass off the work of another as one’s own.

Generally speaking, copyright is governed by federal law. Some states have recognized a form of common law copyright – including New York, but courts have vacillated on the issue – and others offer state registration. However, the surest way to put potential infringers on notice and to protect one’s original copyrightable works is to register the copyright with the United States Copyright Office.

Copyright laws have undergone several major changes since the mid-1970s, including the length of copyright protections for certain types of works and recognition of digital copyrights. Creators of original works who wish to maximize protection of their copyrights should speak the advice of an experienced intellectual property attorney. They can assist with the original registration, and in the event of suspected infringement, take the steps necessary to protect the copyright.

Source: FindLaw.com, “Copyright registration,” accessed Feb. 27, 2018