Massachusetts Copyright Lawyers

Chances are that the news report that you read this morning on the internet was copyrighted. Copyright is an intellectual property right granted to the author of an original created work. The purpose of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C.§ 101 et. seq., is to stimulate the creation of as many works of art, literature, music and other “works of authorship” as possible, in order to benefit the public. The types of works that are copyrightable include following:

  • Literary
  • Musical
  • Dramatic
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic and sculptural works
  • Audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Derivative works
  • Compilations
  • Architectural works

An important limitation on the scope of copyright protection is the idea/expression dichotomy: While copyright law protects the expression of an idea, it does not protect the idea itself.

For example, a paper describing a philosophical theory is copyrightable; it may not be reproduced by anyone other than the author. However, the theory itself (which is an idea rather than a specific expression) is not copyrightable. Anyone is free to express the same idea as an author, or use the same fact, so long as they do not copy the author’s original method of expressing that idea or fact.

An important limitation on the scope of copyright protection is the idea/expression dichotomy: While copyright law protects the expression of an idea, it does not protect the idea itself. For example, a paper describing a philosophical theory is copyrightable; it may not be reproduced by anyone other than the author. However, the theory itself (which is an idea rather than a specific expression) is not copyrightable. Anyone is free to express the same idea as an author, or use the same fact, so long as they do not copy the author’s original method of expressing that idea or fact.

What about infringement? Generally, you must obtain permission from the copyright holder to copy or use their work. However if a work is not protectable, then it cannot be infringed upon. For instance, spoken conversations that are unrecorded are not protectable. Even if a defendant copied a protected work, the act may be permissible under one of the defenses or limitations. Fair use is one such defense. Quoting from a book or magazine might be copying of protected material; however this copying may well be permissible under the fair use doctrine.

If you believe that your copyright has been infringed upon, then it is up to you to seek relief. As a copyright holder, you can file a lawsuit in federal court to pursue your remedies. If you prevail against the infringer in a civil case, you may be entitled to recover actual or statutory damages. In addition, you may be able to obtain injunctive relief to prevent the infringer from using your copyrighted work.

In addition to the civil remedies, there are also criminal penalties for copyright infringement. The Copyright Act provides for criminal prosecution in certain cases.

If you believe that your copyright has been infringed upon, you should consult legal counsel to understand your rights and remedies under the Copyright Act.

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Contact Parker|Scheer Business Litigation Lawyers

Parker | Scheer has extensive experience representing parties in intellectual property disputes. Should you need a claim evaluated or defended, please call or email our Boston business litigation department lead lawyer, Barry Scheer. If you prefer, you can also telephone our offices in Boston seven days a week at toll free 866-414-0400.