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Updated on April 9, 2024

Copyright is the sole legal right of multiplying copies of an original work or composition; literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work. It grants the copyright holder (usually the author of the work, unless they've relinquished that right) the sole right to produce or publish the work or any substantial part thereof in any material form whatsoever, to perform or in the cast of a lecture to deliver, the work or any substantial part thereof in public, granted by law for a certain number of years.

It follows that there can be no copyright in ideas, but merely in the particular expression of ideas.

Reserved Rights

Copyright is reserved to the author, who may assign his right either wholly or in part, or grant any interest therein by license, provided the assignment or grant is made in writing, signed by the owner or his agent.

Copyright is the corpus of legal rights given to the authors of intellectual or artistic works to control exclusively the reproduction and dissemination of such works by others.

Almost all countries of the world have copyright laws for the protection of authors. Copyright law in the U.S. is based on a clause in the Constitution of the United States that empowers Congress "to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries". The first U.S. copyright statute was enacted by the First Congress in 1790. Four times since then it has been completely revised.

On February 15, 1973, sound recordings came under protection of the copyright statute in the U.S. for the first time.

Though dramatic or musical performance is not a publication, the right to perform a work is expressly included in copyright.

Copyright law includes the following types of works

  • Literary
  • Musical
  • Dramatic
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Derivative works
  • Compilations
  • Architectural works

Length of Copyright

Copyright endures for the life of the author plus a period of 70 years after his death (according to the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, it extended the term to 70 years from the 50 years in the Copyright Act of 1976); but in the case of a published work, any person may, 25 years after the death of the author reproduce the work on giving written notice to the owner of the right and paying him 10 per cent royalties on the published price. Infringement of copyright is the doing of anything which the owner has the sole right to do.

The remedies given for infringement are an injunction, damages, or an account of profits, or an order for the recovery of all infringing copies, but any action must be begun within three years of infringement.


  • The New International Illustrated Encyclopaedia, Volume 2, 1954
  • The Standard English Desk Dictionary, Volume 1 A-L, Bay Books, 1983
  • Merit Students Encyclopedia Dictionary, A-K, 1977, Macmillan Publishing
  • New Encyclopedia, Volume 7, 1971, Funk & Wagnalls

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2008 Glen


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