Creating your intellectual property is something that takes time, energy, and dedication. If you’ve poured your heart and soul into a piece of music, art, or literature, you’ll want to be properly credited for the work you’ve created. This is where copyright law comes in.

But what are copyright laws, and how does copyright work? Let’s take a closer look at what these laws protect, as well as how both federal and Ohio copyright laws work.

What Are Copyright Laws?

Copyright law is a set of rules that gives creators of original works the exclusive rights to their use and distribution. This law covers a wide variety of creative works, including music, novels, movies, visual art, and more, which is crucial for protecting the creative investment of both individuals and companies. 

Copyright law attorneys help creative artists navigate these complex laws.

The Basics of Copyright Law

At its core, copyright law is about ownership. But how does it work? 

When you create something original, like a song, a book, or a piece of software, copyright law automatically protects your right to control how it’s used. 

Copyright does not protect ideas themselves, but it protects the expression of those ideas. For example, if you write a book, the specific text you write is protected, but the plot ideas or concepts can be used by others. You may have noticed the movies Avatar, Pocahontas, and Dances with Wolves follow a similar plotline. 

This distinction is vital to understand because it allows for a richer and varied creative landscape where artists and creators can build upon existing ideas without infringing on specific, protected expressions.

One key aspect of copyright law is that protection is automatic. The moment you fix your creation in a tangible medium — write it down, record it, save it on your computer — it is protected by copyright.

You do not need to register your work for copyright law to apply. However, copyright registrations have helpful benefits, including eligibility for statutory damages and attorney fees in litigation. We often recommend registration for this reason.

What Copyright Does Not Cover

Understanding the limitations of copyright law is as important as knowing what it protects. Here are some concepts that this type of law does not cover. 

  • Ideas, procedures, methods, or systems: Copyright law is designed to protect the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves. For example, a novel method for teaching mathematics can be described and promoted, but the method itself cannot be copyrighted. This distinction is crucial in fields like technology and education, where innovation depends on the free exchange of ideas.
  • Common information like calendars or measurement charts: Copyright protection does not extend to this type of information because it is public knowledge that is essential for everyday use. 
  • Works not fixed in a tangible form, like improvised speeches: An original work must be sufficiently permanent to be protected by copyright law. 

Diving Deeper into Copyright Laws

Copyright laws state how original works will be protected from misuse and theft. These laws vary from country to country. Copyright law in the United States dates back to 1790, when the country’s first copyright law was passed. The Copyright Act of 1976 created the framework for current U.S. copyright laws. 

Some state and local governments also have their own copyright laws in addition to federal law. Ohio copyright law is generally very similar to U.S. federal copyright laws. However, if you live and work in the state, it will be helpful to work with an attorney who has specific experience with Ohio copyright law.

Duration of Copyright

Copyright law is designed to ensure that creators benefit from their works during their lifetimes and beyond. This period is defined as follows: 

  • For Individual Works: Copyright lasts for the lifetime of the author plus an additional 70 years after their death. This extended period allows the heirs or estate of the deceased creator to continue to reap the benefits of the creation, whether through publishing, licensing, or other forms of distribution. After this point, the work becomes part of the public domain
  • For Corporate Works (Works for Hire): Copyright duration for works made for hire is 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever is shorter. This includes work created by a company’s employees under the scope of their employment or works commissioned under certain conditions. This ensures that companies can utilize and capitalize on these works for nearly a century, providing ample time to maximize the return on investment.

Rights Granted by Copyrights

The law grants several exclusive rights to copyright holders. These rights are crucial for controlling the use and distribution of their work. They include: 

  • Reproduction: The right to make copies of the work in various forms, such as printed publications or digital copies.
  • Distribution: The right to sell, rent, or otherwise provide copies of the work to the public.
  • Public Display and Performance: The right to show or perform the work publicly, such as displaying artwork in a gallery or performing a play on stage.
  • Derivative Works: The right to make adaptations or derivative works based on the original copyrighted work, which can include movie adaptations from books or new music arrangements.

Fair Use

The concept of fair use is a critical aspect of copyright and patent law. It allows for limited use of protected material without needing to seek permission from the copyright holder. Fair use is intended to support activities like:

  • Criticism and Commentary: Using parts of a copyrighted work to critique or comment on it or to provide a scholarly analysis.
  • News Reporting: Utilizing copyrighted material in news reporting is often essential for informing the public on current events.
  • Education: Teachers and students may use copyrighted materials in classroom settings or academic research to further educational objectives.
  • Parody: Creating a parody of copyrighted content often involves using some elements of the original work to make humorous or critical statements about that work.

When to Contact Copyright Law Attorneys

If you’re looking to understand the legal definition of copyright law and how it works, an intellectual property protection attorney can help you. 

Our copyright law attorneys help individuals navigate the intricacies of protecting their original artistic works. We can guide you through the copyright registration process, handle copyright litigation and disputes, and ensure your creative assets are fully protected.

Here are a few scenarios where you might consider working with copyright law attorneys: 

  • Someone copies your work without permission.
  • You’re working on joint ventures with other artists or organizations.
  • You need to set up licensing agreements for your work. 
  • You’ve been accused of copyright infringement.

Protect Your Creative Works With Emerson Thomas Bennett

Understanding copyright law is a must for anyone who creates original works. Working with copyright attorneys can give you peace of mind, knowing that your intellectual property is secure. 

Our team of lawyers has extensive experience with both federal and Ohio copyright law. We’ll handle challenging copyright licensing and disputes so you can focus on your creative projects. Contact Emerson Thomas Bennett to learn more or schedule a consultation with a copyright attorney today.



We provide complete intellectual property representation to business owners, inventors and artists in all matters related to the establishment and protection of domestic and international patents, trademarks and copyrights. Attorneys at our firm also serve as in-house IP counsel for companies whose needs do not call for a full-time internal position.






"*" indicates required fields

How would you like to be contacted?*
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.