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Intellectual property
Sui generis rights
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For copyright issues in relation to Wikipedia itself, see Wikipedia:Copyrights.

Copyright is a set of exclusive rights granted by government for a limited time to regulate the use of a particular form, way or manner in which an idea or information is expressed. Copyright may subsist in a wide range of creative or artistic forms or "works" and subject matter other than works. These include literary works, movies, musical works, sound recordings, paintings, photographs, software, live performances, television or sound broadcasts and in some jurisdictions industrial designs. Copyright is a type of intellectual property; designs or industrial designs may be a separate or overlapping form of intellectual property in some jurisdictions.

Copyright law only covers the particular form or manner in which ideas or information have been manifested, the "form of material expression". It is not designed or intended to cover the actual idea, concepts, facts, styles or techniques which may be embodied in or represented by the copyright work. Copyright law provides scope for satirical or interpretive works which themselves may be copyright.

For example, the copyright which subsists in relation to a Mickey Mouse cartoon prohibits unauthorised parties from distributing copies of the cartoon or creating derivative works which copy or mimic Disney’s particular talking mouse, but does not prohibit the creation of artistic works about talking mice in general. Other forms of intellectual property may impose legal restrictions where copyright does not.

The copyright symbol is used to give notice that a work is covered by copyright.
The copyright symbol is used to give notice that a work is covered by copyright.


History of copyright

Main article: History of copyright

Authors, patrons, and owners of works throughout the ages have tried to direct and control how copies of such works could be used once disseminated to others. Mozart's patron, Baroness von Waldstätten, allowed his compositions to be freely performed, while Handel's patron (George I, the first of the Hanoverian kings) jealously guarded "Water Music."

Access control was always used as a measure to disallow works from being copied without the consent of the author/owner. The Library of Alexandria (a.k.a. “The Kings Library”) was not a place that an average person could walk into and borrow a book from. Ptolemy III paid the sum of fifteen talents of silver to be allowed to copy the works of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides.

Two major developments in the 14th and 15th centuries seem to have provoked the development of modern copyright. First, the expansion of mercantilist trade in major European cities and the appearance of the secular university helped produce an educated bourgeois class interested in the information of the day. This helped spur the emergence of a “public sphere,” which was increasingly served by entrepreneurial “stationers” who would produce copies of books on demand. Second, Gutenberg's development of movable type and the development and spread of the printing press made mass reproduction of printed works quick and cheap. Before these two developments, the process of copying a work could be nearly as labor intensive and expensive as creating the original, and was largely relegated to monastic scribes. It appears publishers, rather than authors, were the first to seek restrictions on copying printed works. Given that publishers now obtain the copyright from the authors as a condition of mass reproduction of a work, one of the criticisms of the current system is that it benefits publishers more than it does authors. This is a chief argument of the proponents of peer-to-peer file sharing systems.

While governments had previously granted monopoly rights to publishers to sell printed works, the modern concept of copyright originated in 1710 with the British Statute of Anne. This statute first accorded exclusive rights to authors rather than publishers, and it included protections for consumers of printed work ensuring that publishers could not control their use after sale. It also limited the duration of such exclusive rights to 28 years, after which all works would pass into the public domain.

The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works of 1886 first established the recognition of copyrights between sovereign nations (copyrights were also provided by the Universal Copyright Convention of 1952, but that today this agreement is largely only of historical interest). Under the Berne convention, copyrights for creative works generally are not granted, but rather automatically assumed; an author does not have to "register" or "apply for" a copyright. As soon as a work is "fixed", that is, written or recorded on some physical medium, its author is automatically entitled to all exclusive rights to the work and any derivative works unless and until the author explicitly disclaims them, or until the copyright expires.

UK Copyright methodology

English law states that an individual's work is placed under copyright law as soon as it leaves that person's mind and is placed in some physical form, be it a painting, a musical work written in manuscript or an architectural schematic. Once in physical form, as long as it is an original work (in the sense of not having been copied from an existing work, rather than in the sense of being novel or unique), copyright in that work is automatically vested in (ie owned by) the person who put the concept into material form. There may be exceptions to this rule, depending on the nature of the work, whether it was created in the course of employment and the purposes for which the work was created.

Evidentiary issues may arise if the person who authored a work has only their word to prove that the work is original and their own work. The author of an unpublished manuscript or little-known publication, which is remarkably similar to a popular novel, will have an uphill battle convincing a court that the popular novel infringes the copyright in their obscure work. Taking some precautionary steps may help to establish independent creation and authorship.

For example, when a web designer designs a webpage (based upon his own work) under a contract for services, the webmaster owns the copyright in at least the underlying code of that website. A common and simple practice to obtain evidence in favour of authorship is to place the copyright material in a envelope or package together with a document signed by several people stating that they have examined the work prior to it being sealed and that in their opinion it is original. Once this is done the package is mailed to the owner by recorded delivery, which helps to establish when the work was created, who the originator of the work is and that there are signatory validators prepared to state that it is original. Once this process is complete the package and contents may be able to be used in a court of law as evidence if necessary.

United States Copyright Law

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution for the United States gives the United States Congress the power “[t]o 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.” Congress first exercised this power with the enactment of the Copyright Act of 1790, and has changed and updated statutory copyright law multiple times since. The Copyright Act of 1976, though it has been modified since its enactment, forms the basis of copyright law in the United States today.

Obtaining and enforcing copyright

Typically, a work must meet minimal standards of originality in order to qualify for copyright, and the copyright expires after a set period of time (some jurisdictions may allow this to be extended). Different countries impose different tests, although generally the requirements are low; in the United Kingdom there has to be some 'skill, originality and work' which has gone into it. However, even fairly trivial amounts of these qualities are sufficient for determining whether a particular act of copying constitutes an infringement of the author's original expression. In Australia, it has been held that a single word is insufficient to comprise a copyright work.

In the United States, copyright has relatively recently been made automatic, which has had the effect of making it more like a property right. Thus, as with property, a copyright need not be granted or obtained through official registration with the government. Once an idea has been reduced to material form, for example by securing it in a fixed medium (such as a drawing, sheet music, a videotape or a letter), the copyright holder is entitled to enforce his or her exclusive rights. However, while a copyright need not be officially registered for the copyright owner to begin exercising his exclusive rights, registration of works, where the laws of that jurisdiction provide for registration, does have its benefits: serving as prima facie evidence of a valid copyright and enabling the copyright holder to seek statutory damages and attorney's fees (whereas in the USA, for instance, registering after an infringement only enables one to receive actual damages and profits). The original holder of the copyright may be the employer of the actual author rather than the author himself if the work is a "work for hire". Again, this principle is widespread; in English law the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 provides that where a work in which copyright subsists is made by an employee in the course of that employment, the copyright is automatically assigned to the employer.

Copyrights are generally enforced by the holder in a civil law court, but there are also criminal infringement statutes. Criminal sanctions are generally aimed at serious counterfeiting activity, but may now become more commonplace as the copyright collectives like the RIAA are more and more targeting the file sharing home Internet user. Thus far however, these cases have usually been settled outside of court, with demands of payment of several thousand dollars accompanied by nothing more than a threat to sue the file sharer, thus such cases do not even make it to civil law courts in reality.

Absence of the copyright symbol does not mean that the work is not covered by copyright.

The exclusive rights of the copyright holder

Several exclusive rights typically attach to the holder of a copyright:

  • to produce copies or reproductions of the work and to sell those copies (including, typically, electronic copies)
  • to import or export the work
  • to create derivative works (adapt the work)
  • to perform or display the work publicly
  • to sell or assign these rights to others

The phrase "exclusive right" means that only the copyright holder is free to exercise the attendant rights, and others are prohibited from doing them without the consent of the copyright holder. Copyright is often called a "negative right", as it serves to prohibit people (e.g. readers, viewers, or listeners) from doing something, rather than permit people (e.g. authors) to do something. In this way it is similar to the unregistered design right in English law and European law.

There is however a critique which rejects this assertion as being based on a philosophical interpretation of copyright law as an entity, and is not universally shared. There is also debate on whether copyright should be considered a property right or a moral right. Many argue that copyright does not exist merely to restrict third parties from publishing ideas and information, and that defining copyright purely as a negative right is contrary to the public policy objective of encouraging authors to create new works and enrich the public domain.

In the United States, the terms "copyright" and "patent" do not appear in the Constitution; they are merely the forms of exclusive rights that the American legislature is constitutionally empowered to secure to accomplish the stated purpose of promoting the progress of science and useful arts (e.g. according to Article I, Section 8, Clause 8: "Congress shall have Power [...] 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 right to adapt a work means to transform the way in which the work is expressed. Examples include developing a stage play or film script from a novel; translating a short story; and making an arrangement of a musical work.

Limits and exceptions to copyright

Main article: Limitations and exceptions to copyright

Idea-expression dichotomy and the merger doctrine

Main article: Idea-expression divide

A copyright covers the expression of an idea, not the idea itself — this is called the idea/expression or fact/expression dichotomy. For example, if a book is written describing a new way to organize books in a library, a copyright does not prohibit a reader from freely using and describing that concept to others; it is only the particular expression of that process as originally described that is covered by copyright. One might be able to obtain a patent for the method, but that is a different area of law. Compilations of facts or data may also be copyrighted, but such a copyright is thin; it only applies to the particular selection and arrangement of the facts, not to the particular facts themselves. In some jurisdictions databases are expressly covered by statute.

In some cases, ideas may be capable of intelligible expression in only one or a limited number of ways. Therefore even the expression in these circumstances is not covered. In the United States this is known as the merger doctrine, because the expression is considered to be inextricably merged with the idea. Merger is often pleaded as an affirmative defense to charges of infringement. That doctrine is not necessarily accepted in other jurisdictions.

The first-sale doctrine (exhaustion of rights)

Main article: First-sale doctrine

Copyright law does not restrict anyone from reselling legitimately obtained copies of copyrighted works, provided that those copies were originally produced by or with the permission of the copyright holder. It is therefore legal, for example, to resell a copyrighted book or CD. In the United States this is known as the first-sale doctrine, and was established by the courts to clarify the legality of reselling books in second-hand bookstores. Some countries may have parallel importation restrictions that allow the copyright holder of their licensee to control the aftermarket. This may mean for example that a copy of a book that does not infringe copyright in the country where it was printed does infringe copyright in a country into which it is imported for retailing.

The first-sale doctrine is known as exhaustion of rights in other countries and is a principle which applies to other intellectual property rights.

Of course, it may be wondered why the exclusive right to sell copies of one's work needs to be specifically provided for by law, as the sale of unauthorized copies necessarily means the copyright holder's exclusive right to produce such copies has been breached.

In addition, copyright, in most cases, does not prohibit one from acts such as modifying, defacing, or destroying his or her own legitimately obtained copies of copyrighted works, so long as duplication is not involved. However, in countries that implement moral rights, a copyright holder can in some cases successfully prevent the mutilation or destruction of a work that is publicly visible.

Fair use and fair dealing

Main articles: fair use and fair dealing

Copyright does not prohibit all copying or replication. In the United States, the fair use doctrine, codified by the Copyright Act of 1976 as 17 U.S.C. Section 107, permits some copying and distribution. The statute does not clearly define fair use, but instead gives four non-exclusive factors to consider in a fair use analysis. In the United Kingdom and many other Commonwealth countries, a similar notion of fair dealing was established by the courts or through legislation. The concept is sometimes not well defined, however in Canada, private copying for personal use has been expressly permitted by statute since 1999. In Australia, the fair dealing exceptions under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) are a limited set of circumstances under which copyright material can be legally copied or adapted without the copyright holder's consent. Fair dealing uses are research and study; review and criticism; news reportage and the giving of professional advice (ie legal advice). Under current Australian law it is still a breach of copyright to copy, reproduce or adapt copyright material for personal or private use without permission from the copyright owner. Other technical exemptions from infringement may also apply, such as the temporary reproduction of a work in information technology.

In the United States the AHRA (Audio Home Recording Act Codified in Section 10, 1992) prohibits action against consumers making noncommercial recordings of music, in return for royalties on both media and devices plus mandatory copy-control mechanisms on recorders.

Section 1008. Prohibition on certain infringement actions
No action may be brought under this title alleging infringement of copyright based on the manufacture, importation, or distribution of a digital audio recording device, a digital audio recording medium, an analog recording device, or an analog recording medium, or based on the noncommercial use by a consumer of such a device or medium for making digital musical recordings or analog musical recordings.

Later acts amended US Copyright law so that making 10 copies or more is considered commercial, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act effectively permits DRM (Digital Rights/Restrictions Management) to prevent manufacture, importation, or distribution of recording devices if the device bypasses an access or copy control.

It is absolutely vital to remember that copyright regimes can differ greatly between countries. It would be dangerous to assume that an activity permitted by the laws of one country is necessarily permitted elsewhere.


Main article: Philosophy of copyright

Critics of copyright as a whole fall broadly into two camps: Those who assert that the very concept of copyright has never been of net benefit to society, and has always served simply to enrich a few at the expense of creativity; and those who assert that the existing copyright regime must be reformed to maintain its relevance in the new Information society.

Among the latter group, there are also some who continue to agree with copyright as a concept to grant authors rights, but feel that it "outlives its welcome" by granting copyright for too long, far beyond the lifetime of the author, and is therefore of little direct benefit to him or her. This is typically attributed to corporate lobbying.

To most critics, the general problem is that the current (international) copyright system undermines its own goal (Boyle 1996, 142). The concepts of the public domain and the intrinsic freedom of information are necessary precepts for creators to be able to build on published expression. But these are gradually being eroded, as copyright terms are repeatedly extended to last beyond the lifetime of the audience which experienced and knows of the original work.

Other copyright scholars believe that irrespective of contemporary advances in technology, copyright remains the fundamental way by which authors, sculptors, artists, musicians and others can fund the creation of new works, and that absent legal protection of their material interests, many valuable books and pieces of art would not be created. This interest is arguably served even by repeated extension of copyright terms to encompass multiple generations beyond the copyright holder's life, not only because many "authors" and copyright holders are corporations, but also because the right of an author's heirs to continue to profit from a copyrighted work may provide a substantial part of the incentive to create. Another effect of the repeated extension of copyright term is that current authors are shielded from competition from a wide public domain. By the time works currently enter the public domain, they almost always have become obsolete.

The recent success of free software projects such as Linux, Mozilla Firefox, and the Apache web server has demonstrated that quality works can be created even in the absence of copyright-enforced monopoly rents[1]. Instead, these products use copyright to enforce their license terms, which are designed to ensure the free nature of the work, rather than securing exclusive rights for the holder for monetary gain; such a license is called a copyleft or free software license.

Copyrighted works replicated onto digital media are easily and trivially copied via file sharing. Attempts to prevent this have been largely unsuccessful, and file sharing almost never results in severe consequences for the violators. Producers of copyrighted material often attribute losses in their sales to online copying, yet they generally continue to produce material and make profits. This lack of apparent effect has been gradually eroding the belief that copyright as presently constructed is indispensable. A few artists actually support the file sharing of their own works, arguing that it expands their audience to include people who would not otherwise be able or willing to legally purchase their material.

It can be argued that, rather than criminalize the many millions of file sharers around the world who now routinely use the internet to commit acts that breach copyright (given that copyright laws have proven unenforceable), copyright holders use the legal system to apply extortion by charging for products that are readily available for free. Bill Gates is on record as saying that there is no way technically of preventing copyrighted digital material being replicated, so future attempts to enforce copyrights may become uneconomic, as well as unpopular politically. In the meantime, companies or indviduals held by a court to have infringed copyright may be required to pay substantial amounts in damages. A recent and highly visible example is the Australian Kazaa case, Universal Music Australia Pty Ltd v Sharman License Holdings Ltd [2005] FCA 1242 (5 September 2005); the company operating the Kazaa file-sharing system and individuals associated with it were held to have authorised infringement of copyright in musical recordings. The recoding industry is expected to seek multimillion dollar damages.

Copyright can also be used to stifle political criticism. For example, in the US the contents of talk shows and similar programs are covered by copyright. Robert Greenwald, a director of Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War documentary was refused the right to use a clip of a George W. Bush interview from NBC's Meet the Press. Although the fair use provisions may apply in such cases, the risks and the pressure from insurance companies usually prevents the use of materials without permission.

In the US in 2003, controversial changes implemented by the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act extending the length of copyright under U.S. copyright law by 20 years were constitutionally challenged unsuccessfully in the Supreme Court. The Court, in the case called Eldred v. Ashcroft, held inter alia that in placing existing and future copyrights in parity in the CTEA, Congress acted within its authority and did not transgress constitutional limitations. Other jurisdictions may have enacted legislation to provide for similar extensions of the copyright term.

Some online authors, such as Cory Doctorow, retain the copyright to their work but license it for free distribution (for example under a Creative Commons License). This has the benefit of providing a structured scheme under which authors can loosen some of the barriers that copyright imposes on others, allowing them to partially contribute the work to the community (in the form of giving a general grant on copying, reproduction, use or adaptation subject to certain conditions) while retaining other exclusive rights they hold in it.

Main article: Copyright social conflict

Copyright is also conceived by some as an "artificial barrier" in that "expressions" could be freely exchanged between individuals and groups if there were no copyright or other legal restrictions preventing. Such people believe that as the state does not necessarily possess the moral authority to enact copyright laws, individuals may vary in their observation of such laws.

Copyright concepts are perceived to be under challenge in the modern technological era, from the increasing use of peer to peer filesharing, to the downward trend in profits for major record labels and the movie industry. Public interest groups and industry and alike are entering the public education system to teach the curriculum from their perspectives. The lobbying group for the MPAA have a curriculum entitled What's the Diff? taught by a group of volunteers called Junior Achievement. The Business Software Alliance also has their own curriculum program called Play it Cybersafe, which is distributed to school children through a magazine called The Weekly Reader. There seems to be a general consensus in the USA that there needs to be some curriculum materials for school-aged children on copyright. A public-wiki has been installed by Downhill Battle to build a copyright curriculum called Copyright Curriculum for teachers to download and use in their classrooms. The American Librarian Association will also be releasing their own curriculum for librarians to distribute in winter 2004.

Other aspects

Transfer and licensing

Copyright may be assigned or transferred from one party to another. For example, a musician who records an album will sign an agreement with a record company in which the musician agrees to transfer all copyrights in the recordings to the company in exchange for royalties and other terms. One might ask why a copyright holder would ever give up his rights. The answer is that large companies generally have production and marketing capabilities far beyond that of the author. In the digital age of music, music may be copied and distributed for a minimal cost through the Internet, however the record industry attempts to provide the service of promoting and marketing the artist so that the work can reach a much larger audience. A copyright holder does not have to transfer all rights completely. Some of the rights may be transferred, or else the copyright holder may grant another party a non-exclusive license to copy and/or distribute the work in a particular region or for a specified period of time. A transfer or licence may have to meet particular formal requirements in order to be effective; see section 239 of the Australia Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Under Australian law, it is not enough to pay for a work to be created in order to also own the copyright. The copyright itself must be expressly transferred in writing.

Copyright may also be licensed. Some jurisdictions may provide that certain classes of copyrighted works be made available under a statutory license (e g. musical works in the United States). This is also called a compulsory license, because under this scheme, anyone who wishes to copy a covered work does not need the permission of the copyright holder, but instead merely files the proper notice and pays a set fee established by statute (or by agency decision under statutory guidance) for every copy made. Failure to follow the proper procedures would then result in the copyist being vulnerable to an infringement suit. Because of the difficulty of following this process for every individual work, copyright collectives or collecting societies and performing rights organizations (such as ASCAP, BMI, RIAA and MPAA) have been formed to sell the rights to hundreds of works at once. Though this market solution bypasses the statutory license, the availability of the statutory fee still helps dictate the price per work that collective rights organizations charge, driving it down to what the avoidance of procedural hassle would justify.

Brief comparison with other forms of intellectual property

In general, copyright law covers the creative or artistic expression of an idea, patent law covers inventions, trademark law covers distinctive signs which are used in relation to products or services as indicators of origin, registered designs law covers the look or appearance of a manufactured or functional article and the law of confidential information covers secret or sensitive knowledge or information.

Although copyright and trademark laws are theoretically distinct, more than one type of them may cover the same item or subject matter. For example, in the case of the Mickey Mouse cartoon, the image and name of Mickey Mouse would be the subject of trademark legislation, while the cartoon itself would be subject to copyright. Titles and character names from books or movies may also be trademarked while the works from which they are drawn may qualify for copyright.

Another point of distinction is that a copyright (and a patent) is generally subject to a statutorily-defined fixed term, whereas a trademark registration may remain in force indefinitely if the trademark is periodically used and renewal fees continue to be duly paid to the relevant jurisdiction's trade marks office or registry. Once the term of a copyright has expired, the formerly copyrighted work enters the public domain and may be freely used or exploited by anyone, as courts in the United States and the United Kingdom have rejected the doctrine of a common law copyright. Public domain works should not be confused with works that are publically available. It is completely incorrect, for instance, that simply posting material on the Internet places the material into the public domain such that anyone can freely copy, adapt or commercially exploit the work. Apart from anything else, the material may have been posted by someone who had no right to do so, let alone the power to waive copyright.

Copyright notices

In some jurisdictions, in order to obtain a copyright when a work such as a book or movie is created the work generally should contain a copyright notice. This notice comprised a letter c inside a circle (i.e., ©), or the word "copyright", followed by the year(s) of the copyright and the name of the copyright holder. Certain alternative formats were permitted for certain types of works. A copyright notice serves to inform any potential users that the work is copyrighted.

This requirement was generally the result of previous United States statutory requirements, but since 1989 in the U.S., the use of copyright notices has become optional. With the exception of a small number of countries which still require notices to be on works, this requirement is generally optional except for works which were originally created before the particular country became a member of the Berne Convention (the members of which are collectively known as the Berne Union).

A copyright notice is no longer required for a work to be covered by copyright in jurisdictions which have acceded to the Berne Convention. In most jurisdictions a work may be copyrighted from the moment of its creation regardless of whether or not it bears a copyright notice. However, the existence of a copyright notice may make it easier to claim certain damages for infringement in legal proceedings, as a defendant may be presumed to have ignored the notice and intentionally infringed copyright.

The symbol, ©, is Unicode symbol 00A9 in hexadecimal, and can be entered into (X)HTML as ©, ©, or ©

Year of copyright

The year(s) of copyright are listed after the © symbol. If the work has been modified (i.e., a new edition) and recopyrighted, there will be more than one year listed.

"All rights reserved"

The phrase, All rights reserved, was a formal notice that all rights granted under existing copyright law are retained by the copyright holder and that legal action may be taken against copyright infringement. It was provided as a result of the Buenos Aires Convention of 1910, which required some statement of reservation of rights to grant international coverage in all the countries that were signatory to that convention. While it is commonplace to see it, this notice is now superfluous, as every country that is a member of the Buenos Aires Convention is also a member of the Berne Convention, which requires copyright to be valid without any formality of notice.

How long Copyrights last

Copyright subsists for a variety of lengths in different jurisdictions, with different categories of works and the length it subsists for also depends on whether a work is published or unpublished. In most of the world the default length of copyright for many works is either life of the author plus 50 years, or life of the author plus 70 years. Copyright in general always expires at the end of the year concerned, rather than on the exact date of the death of the author.

Moral rights

Main article: Moral rights

Many countries recognize certain moral rights of the author of a copyrighted work, following adoption of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (which in turn requires, inter alia, the implementation of the relevant provisions in the Berne Convention). Two key moral rights are the right not to have the work altered or destroyed without consent, and the right to be attributed as the author of the work.

The Monty Python comedy troupe famously managed to rely on moral rights in 1975 in legal proceedings against American TV network ABC for airing re-edited versions of Monty Python's Flying Circus.

The American exclusive rights tradition is inconsistent with the notion of moral rights as it was constituted in the Civil Code tradition stemming from France's revolution. In the United States, exclusive rights are statutory and granted by Congress. The first major copyright case in the United States, Wheaton v. Peters, established that copyright was not a natural right or a common law right. Although the case was later nullified when the Supreme Court declared it null and void, it soon became a symbol for the morality of copyright. When the United States signed the Berne Convention, they stipulated that the Convention's "moral rights" provisions were addressed sufficiently by other statutes, such as laws covering libel and slander.

In most of Europe it is not possible for authors to assign their moral rights (unlike the copyright itself, which is regarded as an item of property which can be sold, licensed, lent, mortgaged or given like any other property). They can agree not to enforce them (and such terms are very common in contracts in Europe). There may also be a requirement for the author to 'assert' these moral rights before they can be enforced. In many books, for example, this is done on a page near the beginning, in amongst the British Library/Library of Congress data.

Some European countries also provide for artist resale rights, which mean that artists are entitled to a portion of the appreciation of the value of their work each time it is sold. These rights are granted on the background of a different tradition, which granted droits d'auteur rather than copyright, also granting all creators various moral rights beyond the economic rights recognized in most copyright jurisdictions (see also parallel import).


In the United States, typeface designs are not covered by copyright, but may be covered by patents if sufficiently novel.

In Europe, Germany (in 1981) and the UK (in 1989) have passed laws making typeface designs copyrightable. The UK law, unlike the German, is retroactive, so designs produced before 1989 are also copyrighted, if the copyrights wouldn't have already expired.

Unusual copyright grants

On rare occasions, rights can be granted outside of usual legislation. When the current UK copyright legislation was debated in Parliament, former Prime Minister Lord Callaghan of Cardiff successfully proposed an amendment entitling the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children to indefinitely retain the rights to payments of royalties for performances of Peter Pan. This privilege can be seen explicitly written into Schedule 6 of the Act.

The King James Version of the Bible also has an unusual status: While it is in the public domain throughout most of the world, production in the UK must be authorized by the Crown. Lily's Latin Grammar was also under perpetual crown copyright as of 1911.[2]

Registering copyright in the United States

While copyright in the United States automatically attaches upon the creation of an original work of authorship, registration with the copyright office puts a copyright holder in a better position if litigation arises over the copyright. A copyright holder desiring to register his or her copyright should do the following:

  1. Obtain and complete appropriate form.
  2. Prepare clear renditon of material being submitted for copyright
  3. Send both documents to US Copyright office in Washington, D.C.

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

Related concepts



Some legislation

National copyright laws

International treaties

Notable advocates of copyright law reform

Miscellaneous further reading

  • Bruce Lehman: Intellectual Property and the National Information Infrastructure (Report of the Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights, 1995)
  • John Gantz & Jack B. Rochester: Pirates of the Digital Millennium, Financial Times Prentice Hall, 2005, ISBNO-13-146315-2
  • Jason Mazzone. Copyfraud.
  • Dr. Simon Moores - "March of the Spiders:" Policy Challenges for Copyright in the Digital Publishing Environment (2005)

External links

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