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COPYRIGHT LAW

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Binding rules that define and govern the acquisition, use and misuse of copyrights. Copyright law may comprise, depending upon jurisdiction, international agreements, federal statutes, state statutes, and common law.

Although there is not such a thing as an "international copyright," most countries do offer protection to foreign works via their national copyright laws as they coincide with the various international copyright treaties and conventions to which the individual countries belong. See Cross-links: COPYRIGHT CONVENTIONS.

Within the United States, federal statutes are by far the most comprehensive. Federal law supersedes state legislation (but only in federal courts--state courts enforce state statutes and state judges can ignore or make judgments that limit federal laws in certain instances, e.g., where narrowly defined state statutes conflict with a wider ranging federal law-in these instances, an appeal to a federal court may sometimes have to be made). On the plus side, however, state statutes can be enforced in state courts where they supplement federal law, i.e., are in addition to the coverage provided by federal law.

The federal law that governs most activity with respect to copyright in the United States is the Copyright Revision Act of 1976 as amended (otherwise known as United States Code, Title 17-Copyrights). This law, which became generally effective in 1978, does not cover works created before 1978. Those older works fall under the jurisdiction of the previous statute which is the statute of 1909 as amended. One notable amendment to the 1976 Act was the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988. This amendment covers works created on or after March 1, 1989. See Cross-links: COPYRIGHT CONVENTIONS under "Berne Convention."

The federal law, in general, protects an original work of authorship (with some exceptions) which is significant in length and is an expression of an idea, or ideas. It defines certain exclusive rights in the work to be the property of the copyright owner. Under the law, the rights in copyright are recognized to be separate and distinct from the right to the physical object in which the work may be embodied, and also from any physical expression of the work, e.g., if you receive a letter from your friend the physical letter is your property but the expression of ideas contained in the letter and the rights in copyright belong exclusively to your friend (if they were originated by him, i.e., if he did not copy them from someone else).

The law also prohibits the unauthorized copying of the protected work. It further provides some remedies for certain infringements of the enumerated exclusive rights.

It also defines a group of compulsory licenses (and the fees payable for these licenses) that are available to certain perspective users of copyright. Compulsory licenses, though restrictive, may be obtained without the permission of the copyright owner.

The list of sub-entries that follow will define many of the terms relevant to copyright law. Where appropriate, terms are defined by direct quotes or paraphrases from the existing law.

See Cross-links: COPYRIGHT LAW under "Copyright," "Common Law Copyright," "Limitations to Exclusive Rights," "Compulsory License," ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, RIGHT, LAW, PROPERTY under "Intangible Property," COPYRIGHT ADMINISTRATION, COPYRIGHT CLEARANCE, COPYRIGHT-BY-MAIL, COPYRIGHT-BY-NOTARIZATION, COPYRIGHT MORTGAGE, LICENSE, TRADEMARK, PATENT, EQUITY.

Common Law Copyright:
Perpetual copyright protection enabled by state common law. State common law is law that is generally unwritten (as opposed to statutory law). It is law that is derived from trade customs and traditional use. It has widespread recognition and acceptance and has authority which rests in previous court decisions.

This protection exists only in instances where federal law does not apply or where a work does not meet federal qualifications for copyright, e.g., a memorized and/or performed work that is not fixed in a tangible medium. See Cross-links: LAW under "Common Law," COPYRIGHT LAW under "Statutory Copyright," COPYRIGHT-BY-MAIL, COPYRIGHT-BY-NOTARIZATION.
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Compulsory License:
A license authorized by copyright law and issued by the Copyright Office. It is a license that allows the licensee certain use rights of copyrighted material. Individual licenses are issued with respect to phonorecords (to manufacture, distribute, and sell), juke boxes (to publicly perform non-dramatic music), cable systems (to broadcast secondary transmissions), and noncommercial public broadcasting (to transmit). This type of license can be obtained by the perspective user without the permission of the copyright owner.

However, compulsory licenses can only be secured if certain conditions, restrictions, and fee (royalty) payment requirements are met.

For example, with respect to juke boxes, a compulsory license can only be obtained by a juke box operator user where the juke box operator user and the copyright owner (or his authorized representative, often his performance rights society) are unable to mutually agree upon a negotiated license.

Also, in the special case of a compulsory license for phonorecords (discs and CDs) it cannot be issued until the copyrighted work has had its first commercial recording and has been distributed to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership. (The license that allows the first commercial recording of a work is a negotiated license, called a mechanical license, and is issued to the record company by the copyright owner's agent licensor which is usually the Harry Fox Agency.)

Further, a compulsory license for phonorecords only allows for the recording of "sound-alike" recordings. These recordings must be arrangements that do not change the basic melody or fundamental character of the work.

The compulsory license for phonorecords is then, in effect, a license to manufacture, distribute, and sell a "sound-alike" recording. And since, in the record industry, a license to manufacture, distribute, and sell a phonorecord is called a mechanical license, a compulsory license for phonorecords simply amounts to a mechanical license for sound-alike recordings.

And finally, there is no compulsory license available that would allow for the reproduction of identical copies of an existing copyrighted recording. Manufacturing and selling identical copies is called pirating! Pirating is illegal and the pirate is subject to both civil and criminal penalties which may include damage awards, court costs and attorney's fees, as well as, substantial fines and imprisonment.

All use licenses that are not available via a compulsory license must be obtained from the copyright owner by the perspective user via negotiation.

To help deter the use of compulsory licenses and to help to promote negotiated licenses, compulsory licenses carry with them certain stringent liabilities inherent to their use. These liabilities are defined by copyright law. For example, one stringent condition included is the requirement for monthly royalty payments (instead of quarterly as is the industry standard). This requirement alone usually moves the perspective user to negotiate directly with the copyright owner (or his agent licensor) for a more plausible agreement. Negotiated agreements eliminate the need for the involvement of the Copyright Office.

Information on procedures that must be followed to obtain compulsory licenses and the royalty fees and other liabilities involved may be procured from the copyright office.

See Cross-links: RIGHT, MECHANICAL RIGHT, JUKE BOX under "Juke Box License", LICENSE under "Mechanical License," "Performance License," "Synchronization License," MUSIC under "User of Music," CABLE TELEVISION, COPYRIGHT LAW under "Notice of Intention," "Compulsory License Fee," "Compulsory License for Cable Television," "Compulsory License for Juke Boxes," "Compulsory License for Noncommercial (Public) Broadcasting," "Compulsory License for Phonorecords," "Statutory Royalty," " Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act," "First Recording Right," "Copyright Office," "Copyright," "Copyright Owner," "Exclusive Rights," and "Limitations to Exclusive Rights.".
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Compulsory License for Phonorecords:
The compulsory license for phonorecords is a license to manufacture, distribute, and sell a "sound-alike" recording of a previously recorded non-dramatic musical composition. This license can only be issued after there has been a commercial release of the first recording, i.e., after the first recording has been distributed to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership. Then, any other person or entity may obtain such compulsory license without the consent of the copyright owner.

This license only allows for a sound-alike recording that is a new and independent fixation. This new musical arrangement may conform to the style or interpretation of the new performer but may not, however, change the basic melody or fundamental character of the original work. Further, the sound-alike is not subject to protection as a derivative work except with the express consent of the copyright owner.

This compulsory license does not allow for the reproduction of identical copies of an existing copyrighted recording. Manufacturing and selling identical copies is called pirating! Pirating is illegal and the pirate is subject to both civil and criminal penalties which may include damage awards, court costs and attorney's fees, as well as, substantial fines and imprisonment.

Since in the record industry, a license to record, manufacture, distribute, and sell a phonorecord is called a mechanical license, a compulsory license for phonorecords, then, simply amounts to a mechanical license for sound-alike recordings.

See Cross-links: MECHANICAL LICENSE, MECHANICAL RIGHT, MULTIMEDIA RIGHT, DISTORTION, ABRIDGMENT OF MUSIC, ARRANGEMENT, SOUND-ALIKE RECORDING, CONTRACT-RECORDING CONTRACT clause #18, LICENSE under "Performance License," "Synchronization License," COPYRIGHT LAW under "First Recording Right," "Compulsory License," "Compulsory License Fee," "Statutory Royalty," " Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act," "Notice of Intention," "Copyright Office," "Copyright," "Copyright Owner," "Exclusive Rights," and "Limitations to Exclusive Rights.".
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Copyright:
1) The legal protection given to a copyright owner (of both published and unpublished works) by federal, international, and (in limited cases) state statute.

2) A legal document that states a person's claim (that may or may not be factual) to be the original author of the material being registered for copyright, i.e., copyrighted.

3) The right to exercise the exclusive rights granted a copyright owner under copyright law.

See Cross-links: ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, PLAGIARISM, AMORTIZATION, PROPERTY under "Depreciable Business Property," COPYRIGHT-BY-NOTARIZATION, COPYRIGHT-BY-MAIL, PATENT, TRADEMARK, COPYRIGHT LAW under "Common Law Copyright," "Notice of Copyright," "Exclusive Rights," "Created," "Copyrightable Material," "Registration of Copyright," "Infringement of Copyright," "Copyright Office," and "Noncopyrightable Material.".
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Copyrightable Material:
Any material of significant length that is an expression of an idea, or ideas, comprises an original work of authorship, and is fixed in a tangible medium of expression, i.e., it is embodied in a copy or phonorecord. Material that is identical or similar to other works already copyrighted can be copyrighted by another as long as it is an original expression of a work, i.e., it was not copied. This means that a work could possibly be created by more than one person if the second person's creation was independent of the first. However, it must be both consciously and subconsciously independent. This means that if the second person had access to the material and later subconsciously re-created it, the re-creation would not be protected by copyright law. In fact, if used improperly, it would be an infringement of the original creator's right to copy. Final decisions to determine if copyright infringement exists, however, are made via litigation and not by the copyright office.

Copyrightable works include…

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To Read the Full Commentary Regarding COPYRIGHT LAW to Include
Copyright Office Operations, Copyright Divisibility, Derivative Works,
Exclusive Rights, Fair Use, Compulsory License Fees, Registration of Copyright,
Documents Pertaining to Copyright, Deposit of Fees,
Infringement of Copyright and Remedies, Work Made for Hire,
and Much More!
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