By: Paul E. Thomas
What is Copyright?
Welcome to the first installment of Fredrikson & Byron’s copyright e-newsletter! We hope to meet you here each week for tips on how copyright affects your business and for comments on recent developments in copyright law. And there is an added bonus: articles will be written with practical business solutions in mind, rather than stand-alone legal definitions.
It makes sense to start a copyright blog by defining the subject matter. Copyright is a property right in one of several types of works of art, authorship, or intellectual creation. Congress has itemized the list of the types of works in which the copyright property interest can exist:
Literary works (including fiction and non-fiction, and prose and poetry)
Musical charts (including lyrics)
Choreographic works (if fixed in a recorded medium)
Pictorial and graphic artworks (including paintings and drawings in all media)
Films and motion pictures (including other audiovisual works)
Sound recordings (including musical and non-musical recordings)
Software (including source code and object code)
To have copyright, a work not only must stand in one of the named categories, but also it must contain at least a small amount of creativity, and it must be expressed in a tangible medium. The available media formats have of course expanded in recent years with the addition of several types of electronic and digital media.
The copyright intellectual property interest consists of five distinct rights:
The right to reproduce or copy
The right to distribute (including the right of publication and sale)
The right to display
The right to make derivative works
The right to perform (if applicable)
Because copyright consists of five distinct and separable rights, each of which can be subdivided, it is useful to think of copyright as a toolbox containing five sets of tools that can be used in an almost infinite number of ways. The owner can loan the entire toolbox, or the owner can loan only one or two tool sets or partial tool sets to one or more parties. Plus, the greater the value of the copyrighted work, the greater the value of each of the five divisible rights. A copyright owner who wants to license a work needs to keep this inherent divisibility and flexibility in mind to produce the most effective license in a business context.