You’ve just written a song or a short story, and you want to protect it from others who might steal it from you or claim it was their creation. In short, you want copyright protection for your work, but you’re not sure how it works.

Copyright protection is automatic. Once you create an original work, whether by taking a photograph, creating a blog post, or recording a song, you become the legal owner. Copyright registration, however, allows you to further protect your work through litigation. It also allows you to license your work to others.

Copyrights are different from patents and trademarks as they cover works of creativity as opposed to inventions or slogans.

If you’ve just created an original work and want to know more about U.S. copyright rules, or you believe your work has been violated, contact Ream Law Firm, L.L.C. today. Dale J. Ream assists clients in and around Kansas City, Missouri, in managing and protecting their works through copyright law. He also handles patents and trademarks.



What Is the Copyright Law in the U.S.?

The U.S. Constitution Article I, Section 8, declares: “Congress shall have Power . . . To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” This was followed by the first copyright law in 1790, which has been updated throughout the years.

The first thing to know about U.S. copyright law is what types of works it protects. Basically, anything you can see, hear, read, or watch is probably subject to copyright law. Books, journals, photographs, works of visual art and sculpture, music, sound recordings, computer programs, websites, film, architectural drawings, and choreography are all examples of copyrightable materials.

In other words, works of creativity are subject to copyright protection. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that to be copyrightable, a work must have a “spark” or “modicum” of creativity.

Not everything is covered by copyright law, however. Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, or discoveries are not copyrightable. Book titles are also not copyrightable, as they are considered short slogans. Thus, you can copyright the book “Gone with the Wind,” but not the title.

Also, if you are commissioned or hired to do something creative, even if just to take a photograph, then the person or entity assigning you the task becomes the copyright owner.

How Long Does Copyright Protection Last?

Following an update to the law in 1978, copyright protection now lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years. If there is more than one author or creator, then the copyright lasts 70 years after the death of the last co-contributor. For works done for hire, anonymously or pseudonymously, the protection lasts 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.

What Protections Does Copyright Registration Bestow?

The U.S. Copyright Office has sole authority to issue you a certificate of registration, which enhances your copyright protections.

Although original works are immediately subject to copyright, registering them with the Copyright Office extends your legal protections.

First of all, registration provides a public record of ownership. It also creates a presumption of ownership, which is valuable when enforcing your rights in court. Registration is also necessary for filing a lawsuit for infringement of your work. In 2019, the Supreme Court held that registration of a copyright is required as a condition for filing an infringement action.

With official registration, you thus become eligible for recovering statutory damages, attorney’s fees, and the cost of the lawsuit.

Registration also allows you to work with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to detain and seize imported goods that violate your rights as the copyright holder.


If you’ve created an original work and want to protect it fully, registration is essential. Dale J. Ream can assist you in the process and help you attain full legal protection. If you believe your right to your original work has been violated, he can help you seek legal action to correct the wrong and obtain compensatory damages. If you’re in or around Kansas City, or in Johnson County, Kansas, or Jackson County, Missouri, contact Ream Law Firm, L.L.C.