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How Do You Secure A Copyright?

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Question: How Do You Secure A Copyright?
Answer: The way in which United States copyright protection is secured is frequently misunderstood. No publication or registration or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright. There are, however, certain definite advantages to official copyright registration. When Is Your Work Copyrighted? A copyright is secured automatically when your work is created. You have copyright protection from the moment your work is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time.

Definition of a Copy and a Phonorecord

Copies are material objects from which a work can be read or visually perceived either directly or with the aid of a machine or device, such as books, manuscripts, sheet music, film, videotape, or microfilm.

Phonorecords are material objects embodying fixations of sounds such as cassette tapes, CDs, or LPs.

For example, a song (the work) can be fixed in sheet music (copies), or in a CD (phonorecords), or both.

Note: Motion picture soundtracks do not fall under the "Phonorecords" category even if they recorded on a CD. This is an execption made by copyright law.

If a work is prepared over a period of time, each part of the work that is fixed on a particular date defines what is the created work as of that date.

Effects of Pre-1978 Copyright Laws

Before 1978, a United States copyright was generally secured by the act of publication with notice of copyright or symbol, assuming compliance with all other relevant statutory conditions. U. S. works in the public domain on January 1, 1978, (for example, works published without satisfying all conditions for securing federal copyright under the Copyright Act of 1909) remain in the public domain under the 1976 Copyright Act.

Certain foreign works originally published without copyright notice had their copyrights restored under the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA).

Federal copyright could also be secured before 1978 by the act of registration in the case of certain unpublished works and works eligible for ad interim copyright. The 1976 Copyright Act automatically extends to full term copyright for all works, including those subject to ad interim copyright if ad interim registration has been made on or before June 30, 1978.

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