Copyright law protects original works of authorship. The Copyright Act of 1976 has meant that all works fixed in a tangible medium of expression are protected under the Act from the moment of creation. The 1976 Act provided for a single, extended term of the life of the author plus 70 years. Publication is no longer the measuring point for most works. An alternate term of 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is less, is given for anonymous and pseudonymous works, and works for hire.
Subject matter for copyright includes (a) literary works; (b) musical works; (c) dramatic works; (d) pantomimes and choreographic works; (e) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; (f) motion pictures and other audiovisual works; (g) sound recordings; and (h) architectural works.
Ownership of copyright is divisible under the Copyright Act of 1976. The copyright owner can now license or assign parts of the copyright to third parties. These parties can bring suits for infringement of their ownership rights. Moreover, the Act states that ownership of the material object does not entail ownership of the copyright in the work.
The owner of a federal copyright is granted the exclusive right to do or authorize any of the following:With respect to all copyrightable subject matter, (1) the right to reproduce the work (the reproduction right); (2) the right to prepare derivative works in the same or a different medium (the adaptation right); and (3) the right to distribute copies of the work to the public (the distribution right). With respect to all copyrightable subject matter except pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works and sound recordings, (4) the right to perform the work publicly. With respect to all copyrightable subject matter except motion pictures, audiovisual works, and sound recordings, (5) the right to display the work publicly.