Copyright Confusion? By Neil Wilkinson

What I am writing at this moment is protected by copyright. As soon as my individual expression is fixed in a tangible medium, I can do any of the following things with it: reproduce it in copies, make derivative works of it, distribute the work in copies, perform the work, display the work, or broadcast the work. This “bundle of rights” extends to the holder of the copyright securing nearly complete control over the work. Notice that I referred to the holder of the copyright and not the author of the work, who may be one in the same, but not necessarily. Another of the rights enjoyed by an author of any type of work is the right to transfer it to another.

Recent Copyright Law Changes
That this work is protected as soon as it is created is a relatively new development in copyright law. Since the first U. S. Copyright Act in 1790 until the Copyright Act of 1976, it was essential to register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office if it was to be protected at all. In addition, many types of works enjoyed no protection whatsoever. With each new copyright act, new forms of expression were added. For example, musical compositions enjoyed no protection until the twentieth century, but the copies of the musical score did. Architectural works were not protected, nor were performances. Even now, unless the performance is fixed in a tangible medium, that is, recorded in some way, it will be unprotected.

According to the United States Copyright Act, protection is provided for “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they [the original works] can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” “Original works of authorship” are more specifically enumerated as “literary works; musical works, including any accompanying words; dramatic works, including any accompanying music; pantomimes and choreographic works; pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; motion pictures and other audiovisual works; sound recordings; and architectural works.”

Duration of Protection
The duration of copyright protection depends upon when a work was published. Any work published in this country before 1923 is in the public domain. That means anyone may use it or quote freely from it, without permission or license, without fear of infringing on another