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Common questions regarding copyright law

Copyrights are designed to protect various types of creative works, including but not limited to movies, music, books, software and business materials.

While filing for a copyright isn't necessarily a challenging process, there are a variety of questions you must address. Here are some of the most common questions:

  • What is the difference between a copyright and patent? Many people confuse the two, but there's one primary difference. A copyright covers creative work itself, while a patent covers processes and products.
  • Is a copyright a necessity? You're under no legal obligation to file for a copyright, but it's in your best interest if you want to protect against another party copying your creative work. For example, if you're in the business of developing software, there may be times when you want to protect your intellectual property rights.
  • What are some of the things that a copyright doesn't protect? A copyright is unable to protect ideas, facts or discoveries. Instead, it's only meant to protect the way these things are described.
  • Who is the owner of a copyright? This depends on many factors, but it's typically the person who creates the work. In the event that an employee creates the work as part of their job, the employer may own the copyright.
  • Does a copyright last forever? Generally speaking, the answer is yes. For an individual, a copyright lasts for that person's entire life, plus another 70 years. For anyone considered a non-person, the copyright lasts for the shorter of 120 years from creation or 95 years of first publication.

Just because you file for a copyright doesn't mean you'll receive approval. And even if you do receive approval, it doesn't necessarily mean that others will respect it.

If you're going to take the steps to obtain a copyright, you should get serious about protecting it against infringement. This occurs when another party infringes on your exclusive rights without permission.

It doesn't matter if you're filing for a copyright or protecting it against infringement, it's imperative to understand your legal rights in California.

Visit our website for additional information on copyright law, including various pages on infringement.

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