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Copyrights: What everyone should know

Did you know that musicians can regain ownership of their songs after 35 years? Under Section 203 of the Copyright Act, artists can terminate the transfer of rights they have granted to others – even big recording labels. The idea of this law is to give singers or songwriters a second chance, as they may have made ill-advised business decisions in their youth. The Eagles, for example, filed notices of termination and will regain the rights to their album “The Long Run,” on Sept. 25, 2014, and the album “Eagles Live,” on Nov. 8, 2015. And while this law does not apply to works that are “made-for-hire,” such as those created by employees under contract, it might nevertheless serve to level the playing field. This provision allows performers, or their surviving family members, the opportunity to re-negotiate grants under more favorable terms.

This is just one facet of the laws that are intended to protect an author’s right to control the destiny of their creative work. And while readers may not be familiar with this “right to terminate” under Section 203, everyone should be aware of the basics of copyright law.

Baseline requirements for copyright eligibility

For a work to be copyrighted under U.S. intellectual property law, it must be an original work of authorship – something new that you created – and it must be “fixed in a tangible medium of expression.” Essentially, to be fixed in a tangible medium of expression, your work must be physically recorded somewhere, like in a manuscript, on a digital recording device or on an audio disk. For example, if you come up with a song and sing it for a group of friends, that song has not been fixed in a tangible medium of expression. But, take that same song and write the notes and lyrics down as sheet music, and it has become fixed.

Registration is not required to secure a copyright, but it is advisable

So, you have created an original work of authorship, it has been fixed tangibly, now how do you get a copyright? Well, technically you already have one. You have a copyright the moment your eligible work is fixed in a tangible form. However, it may be very important to register a copyright in order to later preserve your rights. Registration puts your copyright on the public record, providing evidence that you were the first to produce your creative work, and registration is advantageous should you later have to enforce your copyright.

Copyright enforcement actions against infringers protect you and your work

Copyright protection gives you a limited monopoly over the use of your work. Therefore, you can take legal action against those who, without your authorization, reproduce or copy your work, base derivative creations on your work, perform or display your work publicly, or sell copies of your work. By pursuing copyright violations of your work, you can regain control over your creative work and, in some cases, force infringers to pay damages and attorney’s fees. Since the U.S. maintains copyright relations with the majority of foreign nations, you can usually even enforce your copyright against international infringers.

Get help with your copyright needs from an experienced intellectual property attorney

If you need help registering or enforcing a copyright, get in touch with an intellectual property law firm. An experienced intellectual property attorney can assess your situation and help you take care of whatever problems you may be having with infringers. Protect your hard work, protect your artistic creation, and talk to an IP lawyer today.