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Copyrights - Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most important questions regarding copyrights and provided alongside are the detailed answers to these questions.

Why should I get a copyright?

The owner of a copyright has the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
- To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
- To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
- To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
- To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
- To display the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work; and
- In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission

Who can obtain a copyright?

Copyright protection exists from the time the work is created in fixed form and immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim copyright. In the case of works made for hire, the employer and not the employee is considered to be the author.

The authors of a joint work are co-owners of the copyright, unless there is an agreement to the contrary. Copyright in each separate contribution to a periodical or other collective work is distinct from copyright in the collective work as a whole and vests initially with the author of the contribution.

Two General Principles:

1. Mere ownership of a book, manuscript, painting, or any other copy or phonorecord does not give the possessor the copyright. The law provides that a mere transfer of ownership does not automatically transfer rights in the copyright.
2. Minors may claim copyright, but state laws may regulate the business dealings involving copyrights owned by minors.

What works are protected by copyright?

Copyright protects "original works of authorship" that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. The fixation need not be directly perceptible so long as it may be communicated with the aid of a machine or device. Copyrightable works include the following categories:
1. literary works;
2. musical works, including any accompanying words
3. dramatic works, including any accompanying music
4. pantomimes and choreographic works
5. pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
6. motion pictures and other audiovisual works
7. sound recordings
8. architectural works
These categories should be viewed broadly. For example, computer programs and most "compilations" may be registered as "literary works"; maps and architectural plans may be registered as "pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works."

Is there anything that cannot be protected by copyright?

Several categories of material are generally not eligible for Indian copyright protection. These include among others:
- Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression, (for example, choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded, or improvisational speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded)
- Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans (see Trademarks); familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents
- Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration.
- Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship (for example: standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources)

How do I obtain a copyright?

The way in which copyright protection is secured is frequently misunderstood. Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created. A work is "created" when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time. Thus, for example, a song (the "work") can be fixed in sheet music ("copies") or in phonograph disks ("phonorecords"), or both. No publication or registration or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright. There are, however, certain definite advantages to registration.

How long does copyright protection last?

The general rule is that copyright lasts for 60 years. In the case of original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works the 60-year period is counted from the year following the death of the author. In the case of cinematograph films, sound recordings, photographs, posthumous publications, anonymous and pseudonymous publications, works of government and works of international organizations, the 60-year period is counted from the date of publication.

Can I transfer my copyright?

Any or all of the copyright owner's exclusive rights or any subdivision of those rights may be transferred, but the transfer of exclusive rights is not valid unless that transfer is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or such owner's duly authorized agent. Transfer of a right on a nonexclusive basis does not require a written agreement.

A copyright may also be conveyed by operation of law and may be given through a will. Copyright is a personal property right, and it is subject to the various state laws and regulations that govern the ownership, inheritance, or transfer of personal property as well as terms of contracts or conduct of business. For information about relevant state laws, consult an attorney.

What is a work made for hire?

Although the general rule is that the person who creates the work is its author, there is an exception to that principle; the exception is a work made for hire, which is a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or a work specially ordered or commissioned in certain specified circumstances. When a work qualifies as a work made for hire, the employer or commissioning party is considered to be the author.

Can I copyright a name, title, slogan, logo or idea?

Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases. In some cases, these things may be protected as trademarks. However, copyright protection may be available for logo art work that contains sufficient authorship. In some circumstances, an artistic logo may also be protected as a trademark.

Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something. You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your description, but be aware that copyright will not protect the idea itself as revealed in your written or artistic work.

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