As the United States continues to explore international copy right laws, it is pertinent for one to understand the copyright rules that its citizens must abide by within their own walls. With a solid understanding of the copyright laws that reside in the United States, one can then fully synthesize the implications of the latest explorations of international law and what this means for those within the media field.
Although it might not be of primary concern of media law to mass communicators, copyrights are important and often involve those in this specific line of work. Mass communicators are concerned with copyrights that “protect creative works such as books, periodicals, manuscripts, music, film and video productions, computer software and works of art” (Overbeck, 227). With this in mind, it is essential to understand why such property law exists. Original lawmakers of copyright laws were interested in encouraging creativity. The biggest driving agent of creativity is the opportunity to profit from the creation of one’s works. They therefore wanted to make sure that a person’s right to make this profit was protected. With this protection, however, comes some controversy. In the past, intellectual property laws have been called monopolistic in that it creates monopolistic controls on knowledge. Those that oppose these types of laws argue that it is an abridgement of free expression.
Along with this opposition of intellectual property laws comes a long history in the United States. In the very early years of the United States history, Congress passed the Copyright Act of 1790. This law has been revised several times with the most major current revisions resulting in the Copyright Act of 1976. In short, these laws hold that “the owner of a copyright has the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to create derivative works based on it, and to distribute copies, perform the work or display it to the public. Anyone else who does these things without the copyright owner’s permission is guilty of copyright infringement unless what that person does qualifies as a fair use” (Overbeck, 229). In addition, these laws outline what a copyright owner must do in order to qualify for a remedy of the situation.
As previously mentioned, the kinds of work that the Copyright Act includes is of importance to media law. As a general rule, any kind of creative endeavor may be copyrighted. This extends to literary works, musical works, dramatic works, choreographic works and pantomimes, pictorial, graphic and sculptural works, computer software, maps, architectural designs, recordings, motion pictures and radio or television productions. In other words, just about anything that is printed or broadcasted can be copyrighted. One great exception to this, however, is that news itself cannot be copyrighted (Overbeck, 229).
Securing a copyright in the United States is actually quite simple. The process of acquiring a copyright is limited to just filling out forms and paying the required fees. Once this is completed, it is custom to announce to everybody that your work is copyrighted. This is usually done by inserting the copyright symbol, Ó, on the work. If a copyright is properly registered, there are several remedies available for infringements upon the...