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Copyright Law

A copyright is an exclusive set of rights provided to the author of a specific idea, expression or original written work.  Copyrights apply to a wide range of works including, movies, music, audio recordings, drawings, photographs, software, television broadcasts, poems, plays, designs, books, articles and similar works.

The art of creating original copy is sometimes referred to as "copywriting".

Copyright law covers the "form of material expression" but not the actual idea, facts or concept that may be presented by the work.  Subsequent works that are sufficiently different to not be considered an imitation of the original work are generally not considered to be a copyright violation of the original.  Trademark and patent laws may offer the creator of an original work protections outside the realm of copyright law.

The rights of an author to exclusivity were first provided in the U.S. through the Copyright Act of 1790.  Current copyright law is governed by the Copyright Act of 1976 as amended.

For works created after 1977 copyright protection is granted for the life of the author plus 70 years.  Corporate authored works are granted 95 years of protection from the first publication date or 120 years from the creation date whichever expires first.  All works published before 1923 are now in the public domain.  When the copyright protections for a work expire, the work enters into the public domain and may be used for any purpose by any party.  The author need not apply to the U.S. Copyright office for protection to be granted under the law.

Copyright protection is not available for any work published by the United States Government, its agents or its employees.  These publications are in the public domain.  Also in the public domain are government edicts, judicial opinions, administrative rulings, public ordinances, legislative enactments and similar documents of state, local and the federal government.

Copyright law applies to online as well as offline works.  The author of every original web page, article, image or other online work is protected under the law regardless if copyright protection has been applied for, stated or not.  The law provides for substantial penalties to those who would copy and use the original works of others.

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