What is a copyright?

Iowa Intellectual Property, Dickinson Law, Des Moines IA

Posted on 01/03/2012 at 12:03 PM by The Newsroom

Copyright is a form of protection provided to the creators of 'original works of authorship,' including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available for both published and unpublished works.  Copyright protection begins from the time the work is created in fixed, tangible form. A copyright gives the owner of the copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  • To reproduce the work in copies or phono records;
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
  • To distribute copies 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.

In the case of works 'made for hire' where an artist has created the work while in his/her capacity of employee, the employer and not the employee is considered to be the author and copyright holder. Where a work was created jointly by more than one artist, the authors of a joint work are all co-owners of the copyright in the work, unless there is an agreement to the contrary. Where the work is created by an independent contractor, it is important to have a written agreement prior to commissioning any work; otherwise, the copyright belongs to the independent contractor and there may be restrictions as to the use of the work.


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