Common Copyright Questions
If I have an idea in my head, is it automatically copyrighted?
No, ideas are not copyrightable. Only tangible forms of expression (e.g., a book, play, drawing, film, or photo, etc.) are copyrightable. Once you express your idea in a fixed form — as a digital painting, recorded song, or even scribbled on a napkin — it is automatically copyrighted if it is an original work of authorship.
When does copyright start? Do I have to register the work with the government?
Copyright status is automatic upon creation of your original creative work in a fixed, tangible form. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not necessary for copyright status and protection, though registration is needed in order to pursue an infringement claim in court.
How do I formally register my original, creative work?
You can fill out the form and submit a filing fee at the U.S. Copyright Office website. http://www.copyright.gov/
How long does copyright last?
- For original works created after 1977, copyright lasts for the life of author/creator + 70 years from the author’s death for his/her heirs.
- For “works made for hire” corporate works and anonymous works created after 1977, copyright can last from 95-120 years from publication.
Find out more here: http://www.teachingcopyright.org/handout/copyright-faq