In an age when it seems as though every Tom, Dick, and Jane is ripping off software and music from the Internet the idea of copyright may seem insignificant until it comes to your own work being stolen, used, modified, and often sold as someone else's.

The question of copyright becomes important when you have designed, developed, and produce a product that generates income for you or your company.

"Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors of original works of authorship," including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works." The law generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive rights to do and to authorize others to do specific tasks with a given work including reproduction, distribution, performance, and the preparing of derivative works based upon the original.

Copyrighted material protects "original works of authorship" that are fixed in a tangible form of expression for example a film, photograph, or CD ROM. "The fixation need not be directly perceptible so long as it may be communicated with the aid of a machine or device." Copyrightable works include the following categories:

  • Literary works
  • Musical works, including any accompanying words
  • Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works

To learn more about copyright and how you can protect your own original work go online and check out this guide to copyright: (http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html).