A copyright is a form of intellectual property, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work of authorship (including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works) exclusive rights to the work, usually for a limited period of time. Generally speaking, a copyright is "a right to copy", but also gives the copyright holder the right to be credited for the work, to determine who may adapt the work to other forms, who may perform the work, who may financially benefit from it, and other related rights. A copyright is applicable to any expressible form of an idea or information that is substantive and discrete. However, a copyright cannot be used to protect the functional aspects of a work nor any law of nature.In the United States, copyright is available to both published and, to some extent, unpublished works. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act (Title 17 of the U.S. Code) generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  • reproduce the work in copies or phone records;
  • prepare derivative works based upon the work;
  • distribute copies or phone records of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  • perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audio¬≠-visual works;
  • display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audio-visual work; and
  • perform the work publicly (in the case of sound recordings*) by means of a digital audio transmission.
While formal federal registration of a copyrighted work is not required to enjoy some Common-Law copyright protections, federal registration is highly recommended in order to enjoy the protections and remedies available under U.S. federal laws, including the prospect of the award of statutory damages without having to prove lost profits by the copyright holder or unjust profits by the accused copyright infringer.

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