Copyright is a form of intellectual property law that protects authors and their work. Copyright law actually originated in England in 1710 and was called the Statute of Anne. It was the first act that introduced the idea that the author of a work is the true and only owner of that work. Then in 1787, the United States composed a part in the Constitution that stated, “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” (Article 1, Section 8).
Since then, copyright law has protected artistic works, musical works, or literary works. However, it is important to note that copyright only protects things in a tangible format. So, it protects material like novels, movies, songs, or computer software but does not protect ideas or methods. In essence, if you have an idea, and you can memorialize it somehow on paper, then you have something that is copyrightable. Some areas of Copyright Law have several layers. For example, say a musical artist produces an album with 12 songs on it. Several components of the album can be protected via Copyright and then licensed to a third party that wants to sample that work. Separate copyrights can be attained in the melody, lyrics and the entire recording itself. It is important to realize this as an artist because you can open yourself up to various alternative revenue streams.
It is worth noting that certain technical works can be copyrighted now. In years past, software programs were patented, but due to several legal decisions in recent years, it is very difficult to patent a software platform. However, if you put the code or algorithms on paper, the software platform can be protected via Copyright Law.
You can register your work at the U.S. Copyright Office to secure protection. This is not required but it definitely has its benefits. For example, in order to file an infringement lawsuit, your work must be registered. Additionally, registering your work allows it to be public record. All in all, copyright law is important because it allows creators to have full control and exclusive rights of their work. How long is my work protected, you ask? The general rule is that your Copyright protection lasts for your entire life, PLUS 70 years after you pass. Any royalties that come after your passing will be sent to descendants or a trust that you designate. There are certain extensions that you can attain to increase this timeframe, but the general rule is “Life+Seventy”.
Hope this is insightful and best of luck on ALL your creative endeavors!