A copyright is a protection that is extended to the original author of a creative work that has been established in a fixed way. Traditional examples of things that are protected by copyright include literary works, music, plays, photographs and graphics, and even architectural works and sculpture. Copyright can also extend to many aspects of a business’ intellectual property, and protecting these works from infringement is extremely important because it enables the author or owner to remain competitive within a given industry and to control how a specific piece of work is used.


You cannot copyright your ideas or facts that you have reported on or conveyed. However, your individual way of expressing those ideas or facts may be protected once they have been fixed in a tangible medium of expression. This means that your work is able to be seen and reproduced or communicated. The definition of fixed can be as simple as something that is written down on a notepad or typed on a computer or as complex as a painting on canvas.


Obtaining a copyright for your work is not difficult, and often is also not something that needs to be done in a formal way. Your work actually gains copyright protection as soon as it is fixed, which means that if somebody else uses your materials without your permission they have automatically infringed on your rights. Though copyrights were once only established when works were officially registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, that is no longer necessary, though filing a lawsuit against somebody for copyright infringement may necessitate that step.


Copyright infringement is usually enforced when the owner of a work imposes an injunction against the use of their work. Copyright rights mean that only the creator or owner of a work is able to reproduce it via copies or recording, prepare additional works that derive from the original work, or distribute it to the public (whether by sale, transfer, lease or loan). In some cases copyright law extends beyond these limits to include performance and display of the work. If a person infringes on your copyright, they can be held liable for civil damages, and in extreme cases can even be held criminally responsible.


In order to establish that infringement has taken place, the owner or author has to prove ownership and that the infringer did not have consent to use the work. It does not matter whether the infringement was intentional or even whether the person who infringed upon your copyright knew that they were doing so.  The person whose work has been infringed upon has the option of choosing to receive actual monitory damages plus any profits that the infringer may have gained, or statutory damages, which are often utilized when actual damages are difficult to prove or establish. Actual damages can include lost profits, and may be based on sales prior to and after the infringement takes place. Statutory damages are established by law and set by the court. Both minimum and maximum amounts have been established.

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