Different Levels of Copyright Protection in the USA – An Overview

Copyright Protection in the USA
Karan Singh
| Updated: Feb 14, 2022 | Category: Copyright

In our regular life, we all use Copyright, and whenever we are watching movies, playing video games, reading any books, or using any software, we are using copyrighted work. Even we are not the actual owner of the work; we are using it without any permission. There are different ways to attain authority to use a copyrighted work or creation. It can be purchased/, or a license to use the work can be taken from the actual owner. Along with these, there are other ways of getting approval to use the work, like using the exceptions & limitations of the Copyright Act. One can use the copyrighted or registered works which are in the public domain even without consent. In this write-up, we will discuss different levels of Copyright Protection in the USA.

What is the meaning of Copyright?

Before we discuss the different levels of Copyright Protection in the USA, it is vital to understand the meaning of Copyright. As per the Copyright Act, 1950[1], Copyright is defined as a bunch of rights which comprises rights of reproduction, adaption, communication to the public, and translation of the work. Copyright is the special right provided by the law to creators or authors of literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works, producers of Cinematograph films & sound recordings.

What Rights Does Copyright Law provide in the USA?

The Copyright Protection in the USA provides the owners with the following exclusive rights:

  • Right to reproduce and make copies of actual work;
  • Right to publicly display the actual work;
  • Right to prepare derivative works;
  • Right to distribute or spread copies to the public by a sale/another form;
  • Right to perform sound recordings openly via digital audio;
  • Right to openly or publicly perform the work.

The distinction between expression & idea is key to Copyright Law. Hence, the Copyright Law safeguards the expression of thought but does not safeguard the idea itself. This distinction or uniqueness is termed the idea-expression difference of view from the Copyright Act, 1976. So the Copyright Protection in the USA for an innovative work of authorship extends to any procedure, system, idea, concept, discovery, no matter any form during which it is defined, illustrated or explained.

What is the Importance of Copyright Law?

It has a dual role, and it promotes creativity & innovation as well as enables the producers or owners of the work monetarily. Copyright Laws enable or allow authors to benefit from their creative work & foster innovation. It proves rights to creators or authors to safeguard their work for a limited time, but it was also set up to encourage creativity & learning.

Different Types of Works

Following are the different types of works safeguarded by Copyright are as follows:

  • Musical works;
  • Audio-visual works;
  • Architectural works;
  • Sound recordings works.
  • Literary works;
  • Derivative works.
  • Compilation works;
  • Choreographic & pantomime works;
  • Pictorial and graphical works;
  • Sculptural work;
  • Dramatic works.

What are the Levels of Copyright Protection in the USA?

Following are four simple levels of Copyright Protection in the USA that you need to follow to protect your work:

  • Make sure that your work is marked properly or correctly: A notice will prevent Copyright Infringement, as it describes that the work is safeguarded under law. However, a Copyright notice is not required, as work is automatically safeguarded under Copyright protection Law. Proper notification will show that someone has an awareness of Copyright Law and takes the infringements of work extremely.
  • Register your original work: To register for Copyright work, one needs to go to the eCo Online System and create an account, and fill up the online form with some basic fees.
  • Register or keep supporting evidence or proof: Those are as follows:
  • Evolution of ideas;
  • Watermarking or footprints.
  • Agreement between co-authors: Who will be the Copyright owner, if the work is a Joint Venture & what will be the owner’s status when someone leaves. This is decided by the mutual agreement between them.

Even Copyright Registration is not obligatory; it’s preferred for various reasons. Many prefer to register just because they want to have a Registration Certificate along with the evidence of their Copyright on the public record. Copyrighted works are also eligible for legal damages and fees of attorney incurred in the litigation process after success. Lastly, if Registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence of ownership in a court of law.

When it meets the basic necessities, Copyright is automatically vested to the author of the actual work. Registration is not needed, but Registration enhances all the rights of the owner concerning Copyrights in different ways. Copyright Registration is vital before a lawsuit is filed, and Registration increases the possibility of amounts of statutory damages received in case of Copyright Infringement. As per Section 107 of the Copyright Act, 1976 following are some examples of fair use:

  1. Teaching;
  2. Scholarship;
  3. Research Comment;
  4. Criticism;
  5. News Reporting.

However, it’s subject to the courts’ discretion to consider these four factors whether a particular use is fair or not.

  1. Substantially & Amount;
  2. Character & purpose;
  3. Result on the potential market;
  4. Nature of copyrighted work.


After discussing the different levels of Copyright Protection in the USA, it is concluded that to cop up with the advanced and latest technological development and to achieve the economic, social, and cultural goals, the United States of America has come across a very significant task of updating & upgrading its Copyright Laws.

Read our Article:What are the Issues Related to Copyright in Webinar? – An Overview

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Karan Singh

A legal writing enthusiast, a wanderer, and a zealous reader. After gaining a lot of knowledge about the diverse legal topics and developing research skills, Karan joined the league of legal content writers to deliver quality-rich blogs.


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