copyright: an overview
The U.S. Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §§ 101 – 810, is Federal legislation enacted by Congress under its Constitutional grant of authority to protect the writings ofauthors. See U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8. (http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.articlei.html#science%20and%20useful%20arts) Changing technology has led to an ever expanding understanding of the word “writings”. The Copyright Act now reaches architectural design, software, the graphic arts, motion pictures, and sound recordings. See § 106 of the act. Given the scope of the Federal legislation and its provision precluding inconsistent state law, the field is almost exclusively a Federal one. See § 301 of the act.
A copyright gives the owner the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, or license his work. See § 106of the act. The owner also receives the exclusive right to produce or license derivatives of his or her work. See § 201(d)of the act. Limited exceptions to this exclusivity exist fortypes of “fair use”, such as book reviews. See § 107 of the act. To be covered by copyright a work must be originaland in a concrete “medium of expression.” See § 102 of the act. Under current law, works are covered whether or not a copyright notice is attached and whether or not the work is registered.
The federal agency charged with administering the act is the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. See § 701 of the act. Its regulations are found in Parts 201 – 204 of title 37 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
In 1989 the U.S. joined the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (http://www.law.cornell.edu/treaties/berne/overview.html).