Copyright Law in the Digital Age

The fundamental principles of copyright law are the same for all media, including electronic media. Nevertheless, the application of these fundamentals can differ with respect to electronic media. For example, the issue of whether a software program is original as long as it does not duplicate another programs’ source code or object code is a question of application rather than fundamental legal principles. Certain laws have been enacted to clarify how established fundamentals should be applied to new media forms.

The Early Years

Originally, it was an open question of law whether computer programs should be protected by copyright law, patent law, or trade secret law. For this reason, software developers preferred to keep their creations as trade secrets Eventually, federal courts decided that copyright law is applicable to the protection of computer programs

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Do you know the basics of the copyright laws?


What does the “automatic copyright” concept refer to?

The current legislation in the field mandates that any form of intellectual property created by an individual that has been stored on a physical device is automatically protected by copyright. It is important to note that until the intellectual property has been recorded on a form of readable or reproducible storing environment, it cannot fall under the category of intellectual property eligible for automatic copyright. In essence, it is not the concept that is covered by the legislation, but rather the palpable form in which the idea has been put into practice.

Moreover, the similarities between the physical form of the intellectual property and other products in the same category will determine the originality. For better understanding, let’s use the example of Walt Disney’s trade mark character, Mickey Mouse. While an individual may draw and animate his very own talking mouse, the differences between it and the well-known Mickey Mouse will be the grounds for deciding the originality of the newborn cartoon character. In case the new cartoon persona and aspect of the mouse are not strikingly similar to the Disney trademark character, then the creator holds the right to automatic copyright without having to register it at the authorities. However, even though the registration is not mandatory, this action still has some benefits.

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Licensing Your Copyrighted Material

By Richard A. Chapo

If you’ve taken the necessary steps to register your copyrighted works, you inevitably will have an opportunity to royalties off of them. To take advantage of the opportunity, you will need to be familiar with copyright license agreements.

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