Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture (source: US Copyright Office).
The aim of copyright is to protect original creative works.
According to the US Copyright Office, the following works are protected:
However, copyright does not protect ideas, methods of operation, systems or facts.
The copyright is implied and a work becomes copyrighted immediately in the moment of its creation. Copyright is an automatic right but registering a piece of work with the US Copyright Office is voluntary.
The symbol © indicates that a work is copyrighted, but since 1989 this is no longer required. So even if you don’t see this symbol, this doesn’t mean that this work is not under copyright.
You are free to place a © on any of your work, but if in future you need to bring a lawsuit for infringement of the work you created, you will have to register it first.
In general, the copyright is in effect immediately from the time the author creates it, until the author’s death, plus another 70 years after that.
However, it depends on the publishing time of the work and on the way it was published, and whether it has been renewed. If you collaborate with other people to create something, then the copyright is in effect throughout the life of the creator who lives the longest, and remains in effect for 70 years after that person’s death.
It is also possible to sell or transfer the copyrights to others. For example, this is the case with book publishing when the author sells the copyrights to the publishing house. Another possibility is to bequeath the copyrights of an unpublished work to your heirs.
The author of the original work is the owner of the copyrights. If the authors are more than one, then they all share the copyrights for the work they created. If the work you’ve created is a part of your job, then this is a work made for hire, and the company/employer owns the copyright.
The Copyright Act gives the following rights to a copyright owner:
Butcher, S. D. (n.d.) Stop, Don’t Post that Photo: Understanding Copyrights & Usage. Retrieved from https://jdbengineering.com/stop-dont-post-photo-understanding-copyrights/
Wood, M. A. (2019, July 15). Copyright Explained For Students: Don’t Get Caught Out. Retrieved from https://www.whoishostingthis.com/resources/student-copyright/
Prager, D. (2019, January 25). A Guide to Online Images Copyright and Fair Use Laws. Retrieved from https://www.rivaliq.com/blog/guide-copyright-fair-use-laws-online-images/