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PREMIUM LEGAL RESOURCES LEGAL FORMS ASK A LAWYER

[Note: Some of the info below may be outdated. Check 1st! -- staff]

The copyright law is important to business individuals from two perspectives: as an owner and as a potential user of registered material. A copyright is used to protect the rights of the author of published or unpublished literature, music and lyrics, drama, choreography, graphics and other art forms, motion pictures, and sound recording. By displaying the copyright format (Copyright year and owner's name or P in a circle in the case of sound recordings), the author protects his or her right to duplicate and grant permission to others to use the registered material. A typical copyright in an individual's name might read as follows:

While an individual may copyright his or her own product, literature created on a "work for hire" basis is copyrighted in the name of the company employing the originator(s) of the material and ownership of the copyright is assigned to thecorporation.

A company that assembles a product campaign with particularly flexible advertising copy may choose to copyright its material to prevent use by competitors. Reference works, directories, catalogues, and computer programs are protected under this federal registration procedure. This protection extends nationally and internationally among the 70 countries that subscribe to U.S. Copyright Law.

The copyright registration process originates with an application form obtained from the U.S. Copyright Office. Form TX is the most commonly used application and covers non-dramatic literary works such as fiction, nonfiction, textbooks, reference works, directories, catalogues, advertising copy, and computer programs.

Some Common Forms and Their Uses Include:

* Form PA: Material to be performed, including music (with accompanying lyrics), choreography, motion pictures, audio-visuals.

* Form VA: Visual arts. "Pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works," graphic arts, photographs, prints and art reproductions, maps, globes, charts, technical drawings, diagrams, and models.

* Form SR: Sound recordings.

* Form SE: Work intended to be issued in successive parts and intended to continue indefinitely.

Once the application is completed, it should be sent with the $20.00 application fee, payable to the Register of Copyrights, Copyright Office, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20559. After the copyright has been issued, the owner has three months to supply two copies of the registered work, one for registration and one for the Library of Congress, to the Copyright Office.

Under the existing Copyright Law, copyrighted mateials are protected for the life of the author, renewable for 50 years posthumously. Material which was copyrighted prior to 1973 is protected for 28 years (from copyright date), with an additional 47 years permitted when the copyright is renewed. Works for hire are protected for 100 years or 75 years from first publication.

The June 1992 amendment to the copyright law automatically extends the copyright term for works published between January 1, 1964, and December 31, 1977, to 75 years with an optional renewal filing to extend the original 28-year term.

Confusion arises concerning what can and cannot be copyrighted. Phrases, slogans, ideas, and mottoes cannot be copyrighted. Neither can blank forms, methods, systems, concepts, and names of products. Occasionally a business owner will attempt to copyright a product or service name, only to be informed that such registration is covered under trademark law rather than copyright law.

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