Purpose of copyright
In general, copyright is a form of legal protection given to content creators through the assignment of specific rights to works that qualify for protection.
The main goals of copyright are to encourage the development of culture, science and innovation, while providing a financial benefit to copyright holders for their works, and to facilitate access to knowledge and entertainment for the public. Copyright provides a framework for relationships between the different players in the content industries, as well as for relationships between rightsholders and the consumers of content. Copyright is a form of Intellectual Property, along with trademarks and patents in all countries, and other creations (such as trade secrets, sui generis database rights, rights of publicity and the like) that may vary from country to country.
When copyright protection begins
One of the basic principles of the Berne Convention is that of “automatic protection”, which means that copyright protection exists automatically from the time a qualifying work is fixed in a tangible medium (such as paper, film or a silicon chip). A “qualifying work” is a literary work, a musical composition, a film, a software program, a painting or any of many other expressions of creative ideas – but it is only the expression, and not the idea, that is protected by copyright law. Neither publication, registration, nor other action is required to secure a copyright, although in some countries use of a copyright notice is recommended, and in a few countries (including the United States) registration of domestic works is required in order to sue for infringement.
What is protected by copyright?
The Berne Convention provides that, at a minimum, copyright protection in all signatory countries should extend to “literary and artistic works,” including “every production in the literary, scientific and artistic domain, whatever may be the mode or form of its expression.”
The detailed list of categories of works that are protected by copyright – and the specific definition and scope of each of them – may slightly vary from country to country, but it generally includes scientific articles, essays, novels, short stories, poems, plays and other literary works; drawings, paintings, photographs, sculptures and other two- and three-dimensional pieces of art; films and other audiovisual works; musical compositions; software and others.