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What Does Copyright Law Protect?

Copyright protects original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. This definition is directly taken from the U.S. Copyright Act. The latter also defines the following as some examples of original works of authorship:

  • literary works;
  • musical works, including any accompanying words;
  • dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
  • pantomimes and choreographic works;
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
  • sound recordings;
  • architectural works.

The provided list does not directly refer to any particular works on the Internet, but please note that it is not complete and many types of high-tech creations qualify as original works of authorship. So, copyright law protects written words that appear on a website as well as the software than runs them, photographs in digital formats, music in the commonly spread MP3 format, digital artwork created in software applications like Adobe Illustrator.

As you can see, copyright laws fully apply to virtually anything that is brought in digital form or published on the Internet. In today’s dynamic electronic environment, copyright laws are no longer limited to the traditional works of authorship like books, magazine articles, artwork created with oils on canvas, etc.

In our experience, we’ve seen many people who erroneously assume that copyright laws can be disregarded in digital environment. They all came to be painfully wrong and in many cases suffered substantial losses as a result of their ignorance or willingness to circumvent the law. That’s why we always advise people to be very careful with what they publish on-line and that they should have the explicit permission of the copyright owner in any case they want to publish a work produced by someone else.

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