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Copyrights and Trademarks

Sharon Housley -- Although information, ideas, and materials are widely available and easily accessed nowadays via print, video, and the Internet, this doesn't mean they can be used indiscriminately.

Copyright is a type of intellectual property. A copyright is a set of exclusive rights granted by the government for a limited time to protect the particular form, way, or manner in which an idea or information is expressed. Copyright is the legal protection given to artists or producers of creative work which protects them against unauthorized copying of their work.

All copyrighted material must be produced in a tangible medium (photo, paper, CD, or video). Concepts, processes, and ideas cannot be copy protected in the United States. If a statement is made yet not recorded or published, it is not protected under the U.S. copyright laws. In other words things must be recorded in a physical form in order to be protected under the copyright laws in the United States.

Any creative works that meets the definition is copy protected. If the creative works was produced after 1978, it is protected for the length of the authors life plus 70 years.

In the U.S. original works can be registered to be copy protected at the U.S. Copyright Office. If a creative work is not registered at the U.S. Copyright Office, it is still considered copy protected. Registration does, however, make it easier to defend a copyright. Use of a copyright notice is encouraged to be included with creative works because it informs the public that the work is protected by copyright, identifies the copyright owner, and shows the year of first publication.

In the U.S. the Copyright Act of 1976 governs all U.S. copyrights. Additionally, the U.S. has treaties with a number of other countries that assist copyright holders with protection in foreign countries. Unfortunately, there is no international copyright law that grants immediate protection to copyright holders.

That said, most developed countries do respect and offer some form of copyright protection. These foreign copyright protections have been made easier through treaties and conventions, namely the Universal Copyright Convention in 1955 and the Berne Convention in 1989. Nations that participate in these conventions respect copyrights from other participating countries.

Copyrights are often confused with trademarks. Trademarks are also a type of intellectual property. Trademarks are any symbols, words, number, picture, or design, used by manufacturers or merchants to identify their own goods and distinguish them from goods made or sold by others. Company logos are an excellent example of a creative that can be protected through a trademark. Trademarks are also known as service marks. Trademarks are registered with the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office); they are not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Unlike copyrights, protection of unregistered trademarks may be limited to their specific geographical area. Trademarks must be actively used in order to be considered "defensible".

Technology is challenging the laws with new venues and mediums falling under the protection of copyright and trademark laws.

Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll, software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds, and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for RecordForAll, audio recording and editing software.

© 2007 Sharon Housley

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