What is a federal copyright?
A federal copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors of original works including, dramatic, musical, literary, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. Federal copyright protection starts from the time an original work is created in fixed form. Usually, only the author can rightfully claim federal copyright since it is considered their property. Generally, if there is more than one author, then such authors are the co-owners of the federal copyright in the work, unless there is an agreement stating otherwise. The owner of the federal copyright generally has the exclusive right to authorize others to reproduce the copyrighted work, prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work, and distribute such copies by sale or transfer of ownership. Ultimately, a federal copyright registration protects the owner from others taking credit for or profiting from such protected works within the United States. However, copyright protection outside the United States depends on the national laws of the country where such protection is sought. There are some foreign countries that offer very little or no copyright protection to works that are protected under the federal copyright laws of the United States.
Are there any multilateral agreements or bilateral relationships between countries that govern international copyright?
Many foreign countries offer protection to copyrighted works from other nations under certain conditions that have been simplified by international copyright treaties and conventions. Some of these treaties and conventions include, the World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”) Copyright Treaty, the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, (“Berne Convention”), the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Property Rights and the Universal Copyright Convention(“UCC”).
What should I consider before seeking copyright protection in a foreign country?
If you desire to seek copyright protection in a particular country, you should first determine the extent of protection available in that country. This kind of research should be done thoroughly and timely. The protections afforded in the one or more countries in which you seek copyright protection should be done before the work is published anywhere since the protection may depend on the circumstances and facts that exist at the time of first publication for the specific work you seek protection.
If my work cannot be brought under an international convention, will it still be protected?
If the work cannot be brought and protected under an international convention or treaty, protection under the particular foreign country’s national laws may still be possible. It is advisable to seek an experienced attorney in the area of intellectual property for current information on the criteria and requirements to seek copyright protection in a particular foreign country and to help you maneuver through the foreign laws to obtain copyright protection of your work.
It goes without saying that proper guidance, evaluation and appropriate registration is a crucial step toward successful copyright protection internationally as well as domestically in the United States so that any kind of infringement may be pursued as available under the applicable law. It is wise to get protection the right way the first time instead of losing money down the road to those who may copy your work and attempt to profit from your unprotected intellectual property. The key to protecting your intellectual property is to seek timely legal advice and necessary registration before any infringement that may lead to confusion by customers and loss of revenue by your business occurs.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be legal advice. Legal advice depends on each and every person's particular circumstance. This article is for informational purposes only and must not be used for avoiding any penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code. Arora Law Firm and Radhika Arora, Esq. specifically disclaim any responsibility for positions taken by readers in their individual cases or for any misunderstanding on the part of readers of this article or publication.
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