Copyright Basics

What You Think You Know May Not Be True

Authored by: Michelle Bogre , Nancy Wolff

The Routledge Companion to Copyright and Creativity in the 21st Century

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138999251
eBook ISBN: 9781315658445
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter presents an overview of the United States (US) copyright law, including key terms, ideas, and references. It explains legal systems, common law, the organization of the US court systems, and differences between state and federal laws and where copyright law is situated in the US legal system. Copyright is a form of legal protection for most types of creative work. It protects property of the mind, or intangible property. Copyright occurs the moment the expression of an idea is fixed in a tangible medium and belongs to the creator unless an employer-employee or work for hire relationship exists. The chapter describes what rights a copyright holder has, joint copyrights, and why copyright registration is important to achieve the full protection of the law. It explains that infringement occurs when a copyright holder’s rights are violated without permission except in situations when the fair use doctrine applies. Finally, it explains the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, termination rights, and the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), the less robust US version of moral rights.

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