A copyright gives an author the exclusive rights to prepare derivative works (i.e. movies from a book), distribute copies, publicly display and/or perform the work. In other words, copyrights protect an author, composer or artist from the pirating of their literary and/or artistic work. A copyright protects those pictorial, graphic, or sculptural elements that, either alone or in combination, represent an original work of authorship. However, copyrights protect only the form in which an idea is expressed, not the idea itself.
Unlike patents, the subject matter of a copyright does not have to be novel or non-obvious in view of the prior art. Yet, the subject matter must be original with the author. Further, the work must be "fixed" in a tangible medium. In other words, ideas in a persons mind cannot be protected.
Copyrights are registered by the Library of Congress and last for the life of the author plus 70 years. For a work made for hire, the duration of the copyright is 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation.
The copyright forms are fairly simple to complete and must be deposited with certain materials in addition to a small fee for the filing of the work. Click HERE to link to the United States Copyright Office.