What is protected under copyright Law?

In general, copyright law protects works of original artistic expression that are fixed in a tangible form. In simpler terms, it protects creative works of expression (such as music, written word, paintings, photographs, etc.). Copyright extends certain protections to the authors of “original works of authorship” (often times referred to as a “Work”), which include musical, literary, artistic, dramatic and certain other intellectual rights (such as software code, vessel hull designs and architectural plans). These rights include the exclusive rights of reproduction, distribution, public performance, and the right to create derivative works.

What is not protected under copyright law?

Copyright does not protect a concept or an idea — it can protect an individual’s expression of a concept or idea, but the underlying idea, no matter how new or unique, is not protectable under copyright. Additionally, it does not protect titles, names, short phrases or slogans, familiar symbols or designs, or typographic fonts.

What happens when someone violates the exclusive rights of a copyright?

Copyright infringement occurs when a third party violates one or more of a copyright holder’s exclusive rights as set out in Section § 106 of the Copyright Act. Therefore, the alleged infringer must have copied or reproduced the protected work, created an unauthorized derivative work, distributed unauthorized copies of the work, performed the work in public without authorization, or in the case of sound recordings, performed the work by means of digital audio transmission. It is important to note that if the third party’s acts do not violate any of the above (such as a private performance), then infringement does not exist.

To maintain an action for copyright infringement, one must prove 1) ownership of a valid copyright in the work, 2) copying by the defendant, and 3) that the defendant’s copying constitutes an improper appropriation. While the analysis into whether a third party has committed copyright infringement seems fairly straight-forward, it is actually a complex legal analysis full of hidden traps that can be quite dangerous (or at minimum mind-boggling) for the unwary. Additionally, infringement comes in several different flavors, including direct, contributory infringement, vicarious liability and inducement liability. If you believe that someone has infringed your copyright or you have been accused of copyright infringement, you should consult a copyright attorney. Leyendecker & Lemire has experienced Denver copyright lawyers ready to assist you in all aspects of copyright law.