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Copyright Law Explained

Requirements for Copyright Protection

In order for a work of authorship to meet the requirements for copyright protection, the work must satisfy two basic criteria: originality, and fixation. The specifics on what each criterion is and how it can be met is as followed.


To be original, a work of authorship must merely be independently created. In other words, it cannot be copied from another. There is no requirement that the work be novel (as in patent law), unique, imaginative or inventive. A work need only demonstrate a very small amount of creativity in order to meet the originality requirement. Very few creations fail to satisfy the minimum creativity requirement.


To meet the fixation requirement, a work of authorship must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Protection attaches automatically to an eligible work the moment the work is fixed. A work is considered to be fixed so long as it is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than transitory duration.

No. These two requirements do not present a difficult obstacle to overcome to receive copyright protection. Unlike the requirements for protection under patent or trademark law, very few works that fall within the subject matter of copyright fail to satisfy these two requirements.

Significantly, there is no requirement that the copyright owner register the copyrighted work with the U.S. Copyright Office or place a copyright notice on the work to obtain copyright protection for the work.

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