Copyright is a form of legal protection for authors of “original works,” including artistic, literary, dramatic, and musical works. The copyright owner enjoys the right to exclude the copying of their works and has the sole right to permit others to reproduce her work, produce derivative works, or publicly perform or display the work. These rights can be quite broad and sometimes confusing – for instance, computer programs may be registered as “literary works.” This protection is clearly extremely valuable to the designer, but it is also vital for the designer to understand and negotiate the use by others of these intellectual property rights.

The rights granted under copyright law are not unlimited. Under certain circumstances others can legally use the work, since copyright law provides for a limited “fair use” of copyrighted works. In other circumstances, a copyright holder may not be able to prevent the use of their works by another since certain works may be subject to a “compulsory license.” Furthermore, the length of copyright protection varies depending upon when the work was created or published and under the employment status the author. This legal complexity, combined with the broad and powerful rights copyright law creates, makes consulting with a knowledgeable legal professional essential. This is especially important for the designer who is starting their own business so as to maximize your client's rights while avoiding violating the rights of others, former employers and fellow designers.






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