A copyright is similar to a patent in that it is provided as a constitutional right. However, it differs from patents in that copyright protection does not protect the utility of something. Copyright law will only protect the creative nature of a work. For instance, movies, songs, plays, sculptures, and characters are all protected by copyright law. An example of how Disney would use copyrights can be found in the movie Toy Story. The whole movie Toy Story is copyrighted and the characters in the movie are copyrighted too. It is important to also note that while the creative nature of a work is considered copyrighted when it is placed in a fixed form, the creative work must be be registered for the owner of the copyright to enforce it in the court of law.
Determining the length of this intellectual property right is arguably more complicated than any of the other types. The creative entity and how the work was created can affect the term of copyright protection. If a single author or creator made the work on or after 1978 then the copyright will last 70 years past the author’s death. If multiple author’s created the work, then the copyright lasts 70 years past the last surviving author’s death. If the work was a work made for hire then the protection will last 95 years from the first publication or 120 years from the date of its creation, whichever is less. If the creator is unknown the same rule applies as the work for hire rule – 95 years from the first publication or 120 years from the date of its creation, whichever is less. However, if the copyright office learns the authors name then protection only lasts 70 years past the author’s death. The above is a very general description of how long a copyright will last.
There are various avenues for creators to save money when filing an application to obtain a federal registered copyright. If you would like to speak with an attorney about filing a copyright or if you believe someone is infringing on a copyright of yours, one of our attorneys would be glad to speak with you.