Copyright: A Brief Summary
What is Copyright?
Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works. This means having a tangible form of your music, art, literature, etc. are protected by the government.
You own the copyright the moment your work is created or in tangible form. The moment a lyric meets paper and is inked, or a melody is recorded to tape, you own the rights to use, and reproduce your work unless you sign your rights to someone else. Work For Hire
If you're an employee for a company creating graphics, music, videos, etc., the employer owns the rights to your work.
You own the rights to your work if you're freelancing unless you have agreed to sell your rights to the client.
You can't copyright an idea, only the tangible production of the idea.
Registering for Copyright
There is a procedure for registering your copyright which is extremely painless. The Copyright Office provides to options for submitting your material for copyright. (a) Submitting electronically has it's advantages with a smaller fee and faster application processing. (b) Filing through mail costs a few dollars more and has a slower application process. Registering for copyright gives you an advantage in case you need to take legal actions for copyright infringement. To register your copyright click here.
Exceptions for copyright protection include commentary, search engines, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, and scholarship, intended to balance the interests of copyright holders with the public interest in the wider distribution and use of creative works by allowing certain limited uses that might otherwise be considered infringement. In other words, Fair Use allows journalists, educators, and commentaries to publish or use your work for the purposes of critique.
For more information regarding copyright check out these other sources.