Thank you for reaching out to us at EpicGem. We hope the information here helps answer any questions you have. If you have a question not answered here, please let us know.
In a very basic sense, Copyright is the right to use a created work. Having the right to use something – in the broadest sense – includes the ability to prevent others from using that same thing. This is why discussions of Copyright often mention the Copyright holder’s “exclusive” right to use a work they create.
Copyright is an “intangible” right, meaning the right exists independent of the physical form in which the work may be found from time to time (such as a writing, recording or image). So if an author writes down a new song, the Copyright would exist in the song rather than the piece of paper on which the song is written.
This is important as it means a creator of a work can let others copy (or otherwise reproduce) that work subject to conditions (like payment of royalties) set by the creator (as holder of the Copyright).
Copyright applies to the original expression of an idea in some tangible medium. In this case, “original” means “newly created” – e.g., written or recorded for the first time, but does not require the underlying idea itself to be new or novel.
“Expression” means that a particular reproduction of another created work can give rise to Copyright. E.g., if you sing the song “Happy Birthday to You”, your performance of that song (i.e., being an expression of that song) can give rise to Copyright, even though the song itself is no longer subject to Copyright.
“Tangible medium” requires that the expression of an idea (e.g., your singing of a song) be captured somehow so that it can be perceived independently by others. Simply singing “Happy Birthday to You” results in no tangible record of your performance; someone recording your singing of the same song does.
Initially, Copyright arises to the creator of a work (at the time a work is created). Like other forms of property, Copyright can be transferred to others. The intangible nature of Copyright means that parts of the right to use a created work can be separated and transferred without transferring ownership of all rights associated with the created work. This partial transfer of rights happens quite commonly in the form of licensing.
It’s sometimes easiest to think of Copyright as a bundle of sticks, with each stick representing a separate right to use the underlying work in some way. That is, creator of the work gets to choose the conditions under which others can use the created work. For example, the composer of a song can grant one person the right to sing a song on Tuesdays anywhere in the world, while granting another person the right to sing the same song only on Wednesdays in a particular city.
Copyright arises automatically at the time an original expression is reduced to a tangible medium (discussed above). Generally, a creator is not required to register their work to obtain the benefits of Copyright protection, but registration can – in some countries – make it easier to enforce rights against others who might breach Copyright.
Duration of Copyright varies by country, typically measured from the end of the creator’s life plus a period ranging between 50 and 70 years.
If you identify infringement within EpicGem of intellectual property you own, please let us know by completing and submitting the information requested on our Infringement Reporting page.
Given the complexity of intellectual property rights generally (and Copyright in particular), we recommend you speak with qualified counsel regarding the specific facts of any situation you are considering.
For general information, numerous resources are available on the internet (some of which are regularly maintained and current, while others are not). Following are some of the sites we have found helpful in considering copyright issues: