A copyright comes into existence when a “work” is created, and in most cases the author of the work is the owner of the copyright. A “work” is an original expression of an author, and the term encompasses works of many kinds including literary works, visual images, musical creations, stage and dance productions, cinematic and video events, statues and three dimensional works, architectural drawings, computer object code, and other original expressions created by one or more authors. Works created by a company’s employees may be owned by the company under the doctrine of “work for hire.”
A copyright includes a number of rights that may be controlled and licensed by the owner. Among such rights are included the right to make copies of the work; to distribute copies of the work; to publish the work; to perform the work; and to make other works based on the original work. Copyrights give the owner the exclusive right to do any of these things, and an owner may bring a legal action in a federal court to enforce a copyright.
Newly created original works are “born” with a copyright. However, before a copyright can be legally enforced, it must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Registration requires a minimal examination to ensure that the work meets the legal requirements for a copyright. Once registered, a copyright will be effective for a term that may vary depending upon the date of creation and the kind of authorship.