Sophos Law Guides
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What is a Copyright?
A copyright is not a patent and it is not a trademark.
Under Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, Congress is empowered “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.” In furtherance of this Constitutional mandate, a copyright is a limited monopoly granted by the U.S. government to authors of creative works. This monopoly allows an author to control how their creative work is reproduced and disseminated to the public for a limited time.
Title 17 of the U.S. Code is the current copyright law in the United States and gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
- Reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords
- Prepare derivative works based on the work
- Distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
- Perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures, and other audiovisual works; and in the case of sound recordings, by means of a digital audio transmission
- Display the 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 audio-visual work
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