Copyright Law In The United States

Copyright law in the US protects original works of authorship. It’s specific to tangible media. This article covers the major aspects of copyright law applicable in U.S.:

Scope of Protection

Copyright protection extends to a wide range of creative works:

  • Literary works
  • Musical compositions
  • Dramatic works
  • Choreographic works
  • Pictorial
  • Graphic
  • Sculptural works
  • Motion pictures
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works


The creator or author of a work is the copyright owner. The employer becomes the copyright owner if he commissioned the work.


You must register with the U.S. Copyright Office to enforce copyright in court. It protects you from infringement. This entitles the copyright owner to statutory damages and legal fees. There are easy steps that you need to follow.

  • Submit an application to the Copyright Office.
  • Pay the fee.
  • Attach a copy of your work.

Duration of Protection

Copyright protection lasts for an author’s lifetime and 70 years more after his death.

Here’s the period of protection for works created under pseudonyms, anonymous works, and works made for hire:

  • 95 years from the date of publication, or
  • 120 years from the date of creation

The shorter period of protection applies.

Exclusive Rights

The copyright owner has the exclusive rights listed below.

  • To reproduce the work
  • To prepare derivative works based on the original
  • To distribute copies of the work
  • To perform the work publicly
  • To display the work publicly

Fair Use

Under the fair use doctrine, certain uses of copyrighted content—such as criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research—are permitted without the owner’s consent. Here’s the criteria to know if it qualifies under fair use:

  • The purpose and character of the use
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used
  • The effect on the potential market for the copyrighted work


Copyright infringement refers to the use of copyrighted works without the owner’s permission. Here are the legal remedies for infringement:

  • Injunctive relief
  • Actual damages
  • Statutory damages
  • Attorney’s fees

Copyright law is a federal law that applies across all states. Arizona is subject to the same copyright laws and principles.