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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:36 pm
As soon as you create something, it's automatically copyrighted. Copyright protection is international and was agreed to by most industrialized nations in the Berne (BURN) Convention of 1971. Copyrights apply to written literary works; musical pieces, including lyrics; and dramatic works. Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; motion pictures and video; sound recordings; and computer software are also covered. The copyright gives you a number of specific rights to the work. You can reproduce and distribute it, whether by publishing, recording, or electronic means. In the case of graphic, dramatic, or musical compositions, you have the right to perform or display it. The major limits to a copyright come from what's called 'fair use.' A critic can quote portions of a work in the course of writing a review, or a teacher could make copies for distribution in a class. While copyright protection exists from the moment a work is completed, it's up to you to prove when you created it. Registration with the U-S Copyright Office gives the most complete protection.

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