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US Copyright Basics
Copyright is a form of protection provided by U.S. law to authors of “original works of authorship” from the time the works are created in a fixed form. This circular provides an overview of basic facts about copyright and copyright registration with the U.S. Copyright Office. It covers Works eligible for protection; Rights of copyright owners; Who can claim copyright; and Duration of copyright.
An original work of authorship is a work that is independently created by a human author and possesses at least some minimal degree of creativity. A work is “fixed” when it is captured (either by or under the authority of an author) in a sufficiently permanent medium such that the work can be perceived, reproduced, or communicated for more than a short time. Copyright protection in the United States exists automatically from the moment the original work of authorship is fixed.
See further at Copyright basics