This tall-grass prairie, near Blossom Prairie,
Texas, called "les belles preries" by early French explorers,
once stretched from the Texas
Gulf coast to southern Manitoba. These "endless prairies" and "fruited
plains" have inspired the works of novelists and poets from James Fenimore
Cooper and Carl Sandburg to Larry McMurtry. Their
enduring works are protected by copyright.
Origins of Copyright
The concept of copyright (the exclusive privilege to copy or reproduce and
distribute) is closely linked to the invention of printing in Europe (see
Origins of Printing), where in the mid-15th century it became possible for
the first time in history to reproduce copies of literary works mechanically
rather than by hand. This was done at a cost per unit that placed printed
books within reach of the average man. Publishers (printers and booksellers)
invested large sums of money in paper, printing presses and labor to
manufacture books. To be profitable, publishers required a reasonable return
from a large market over a long period of time.
protection against the printing and sale of unauthorized copies, many
publishers could not recover and profit on their investment, and were
ruined. Some way of protecting these works from profiteers was needed to
safeguard the printers and booksellers.
At that time, local
monarchs granted monopoly privileges (comparable to a franchise) over a
particular practice or trade, and following the invention of the printing
press, monopoly rights were granted or sold to printers (and occasionally
authors) for various literary works.
In the U.S.,
copyright laws were enacted to encourage authors and inventors to publish
their works, in recognition of the author as the source of new ideas and
creator of the technologies needed by the new nation. To meet this
need, the copyright enablement clause of our constitution (Article
1, section 8, clause 8) provided for the grant of
an exclusive privilege to authors and inventors: the exclusive right
to the “writings” of “authors” and the
“discoveries” of “inventors” for a limited period of years, long
enough to recover costs and profit, and for the explicit purpose of promoting advances in the
useful arts and sciences.
On expiration of the copyright
term, the works fall into the public domain and may then be freely copied
and distributed by anyone. In the meantime, the public enjoys the benefit of
the ideas, knowledge and information revealed by the published works, thus
stimulating advances in the arts and sciences.
Today, U.S. copyright laws protect a
variety of works - fine arts as well as useful arts. All works authored
in the United States have copyright protection as soon as they are created.
Therefore, authors of original works such as computer programs, books,
poetry, photographs, music, paintings, jewelry and so forth acquire copyright
ownership as soon as those works are expressed in some tangible form.
circumstancs underlying the creation of the copyright work need to be formalized and registered before the right can be
enforced by federal court action. A copyright
registration is a legal formality intended to make a public record
of the basic facts.
Copyright registration is quite inexpensive and relatively easy to
obtain. We can help you determine what level of protection is right
for your company.
before the U.S. Copyright Office:
of copyright in the
U. S. Copyright Office
use" and "works made for hire" ownership issues
software development and licensing agreements
• recording registered
the lawyers at Griggs Bergen LLP to schedule a confidential