How to Use Copyrights

In order to receive credit for intellectual property, inventors have to protect their creations. The most effective way to accomplish this is to copyright the work. A copyright protects original works, such as literature, music and artwork. It does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation—only the way they are expressed. A copyright will stop others from adapting, performing, reproducing or publicly displaying or distributing the work.

A copyright takes effect as soon as a work is published, whether or not the work is registered with the copyright office; however, registering a copyright will be a major help in case there is ever a dispute over infringement. Copyrights last either 95 years after publication or 120 years after the creation of the work, whichever comes first. Works created after 1977 are protected for seventy years after the death of the author.

Copyrighted works can only be reproduced, adapted or publicly displayed by the copyright owner or an authorized representative of the owner. Royalty fees usually apply for people other than the owner wanting to reproduce, adapt or publicly display the work.

The copyright symbol on a work tells the world that the work is copyrighted and is the property of its creator. The symbol provides important information to the viewer because it is accompanied by the name of the owner of the work and the first year of publication. It also deters others from reproducing or redistributing the work. Whether the copyright is registered or not, it is the responsibility of the copyright owner to display the copyright information on the work.