Copyright is a legal right created by the law of a country, that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights to its use and distribution, usually for a limited time, with the intention of enabling the creator (e.g. the photographer of a photograph or the author of a book) to receive compensation for their intellectual effort
Copyright came about with the invention of the printing press and with wider public literacy. As a legal concept, its origins in Britain were from a reaction to printers’ monopolies at the beginning of the 18th century. Charles II of England was concerned by the unregulated copying of books and passed the Licensing of the Press Act 1662 by Act of Parliament, which established a register of licensed books and required a copy to be deposited with the Stationers’ Company, essentially continuing the licensing of material that had long been in effect.
Copyright may apply to a wide range of creative, intellectual, or artistic forms, or “works”. Specifics vary by jurisdiction, but these can include poems, theses, plays and other literary works, motion pictures, choreography, musical compositions, sound recordings, paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, computer software, radio and television broadcasts, and industrial designs. Graphic designs and industrial designs may have separate or overlapping laws applied to them in some jurisdictions.
Copyright does not cover ideas and information themselves, only the form or manner in which they are expressed. For example, the copyright to a Mickey Mouse cartoon restricts others from making copies of the cartoon or creating derivative works based on Disney’s particular anthropomorphic mouse, but does not prohibit the creation of other works about anthropomorphic mice in general, so long as they are different enough to not be judged copies of Disney’s. Note additionally that Mickey Mouse is not copyrighted because characters cannot be copyrighted; rather, Steamboat Willie is copyrighted and Mickey Mouse, as a character in that copyrighted work, is afforded protection.
In many jurisdictions, copyright law makes exceptions to these restrictions when the work is copied for the purpose of commentary or other related uses. It should be noted that US copyright does NOT cover names, title, short phrases or Listings (such as ingredients, recipes, labels, or formulas). However there are protections available for those areas copyright does not cover – such as trademarks and patents.
Copyright laws are standardized somewhat through international conventions such as the Berne Convention and Universal Copyright Convention. These multilateral treaties have been ratified by nearly all countries, and international organizations such as the European Union or World Trade Organization require their member states to comply with them.
Copyright subsists for a variety of lengths in different jurisdictions. The length of the term can depend on several factors, including the type of work (e.g. musical composition, novel), whether the work has been published, and whether the work was created by an individual or a corporation. In most of the world, the default length of copyright is the life of the author plus either 50 or 70 years. In the United States, the term for most existing works is a fixed number of years after the date of creation or publication
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