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What is the fair use exception in copyright law?

The Copyright Act does not prohibit all use of copyrighted work. So-called fair use of copyrighted work is allowed. Generally, fair use is a use which is done for a limited and "transformative" purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize or parody a copyrighted work. Fair use is thus a defense to a claim of copyright infringement. Determining what use is considered "transformative" and what is not is difficult. There are no hard and fast rules governing the question, and the question has been decided in various ways by various different courts. It is a fact-intensive analysis.

What is required to prove copyright infringement?

To prove infringement, a copyright owner must prove that he or she is the owner of a valid copyright and that someone copied original elements from the copyrighted work. When the work has been registered, a valid copyright is assumed. To prove that someone copied original elements of the work, the copyright owner needs to establish that the copier had access to his work and that there is a substantial similarity between the copy and original elements of the work.

What are the benefits of registering with the copyright office?

While an original work is protected even without registration, there are additional benefits to registering with the Copyright Office. As a general rule, registration is required before one can file suit to enforce the rights granted by the Copyright Act. So while a copyright holder who becomes aware of infringement could send the infringer a cease and desist letter, they could not follow that threat with a lawsuit. Thus, registration provides the copyright holder with the additional protection of the ability to file suit.

Bad Day for a Billionaire: Sculptor Prevails in Copyright Case

Gene Brockland recently won a significant victory for his client, sculptor Don Wakefield, in a major copyright infringement case. Billionaire Igor Olenicoff and his Olen Properties Corporation were originally hit with a $450,000 verdict. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has now upheld the damage award, and has ordered that the infringing copies be destroyed. 

How Is Copyright Protection Obtained?

The creator of an original work that is entitled to copyright protection owns the copyright as soon as the work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. In other words, once the original work is created the copyright exists. For example, an artist has a copyright in his or her work as soon as their painting, drawing or sculpture has been created. At that point, with nothing more being done, it is not legal for anyone to copy that original work.

What does copyright law protect?

The federal Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. §101 et seq.) applies to a wide range of creative, intellectual and artistic forms, commonly referred to as "works." It protects written works such as books, articles, poems, plays and theses. It protects fine arts such as paintings, drawings, sculptures and photographs. It protects motion pictures, choreography, musical compositions and sound recordings. It also protects industrial designs such as architectural drawings and engineering plans. In the digital age, it has come to protect computer software code.

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