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What are the rights of the holder of a copyright?
Copyrights, as do other forms of intellectual property, allow the holder to exclude others from using or copying the protected work. A copyright holder has exclusive rights to the following:
• Reproduce – The holder of a copyright has the ability reproduce and distribute the protected work. For example, the holder of the copyright may distribute copies of the work or license the work for reproduction in any format.
⁃ Example: The holder of a copyright on lyrics to a song may license the rights to perform the song to a recording artist.
• Derivative Works – The holder may prepare derivative works based on the original work. For example, the holder may employ images, characters, words, or notes from the original work or adopting your work in other formats.
⁃ Example: The holder of copyrights in an image may incorporate that image in a separate work. Similarly, the holder of copyrights in a song may use any portions of a song (lyrics or notes) in a separate song.
• Distribution – The holder may distribute copies or reproductions of the work by sale, lease or other transfer of ownership. This generally includes the right to commercially publish the protected work and distribute it through any medium or method of commerce.
⁃ Example: Jay-Z has the exclusive right to sell and distribute any of the songs or albums to which he holds the master rights.
• Performance – The holder may publicly perform the work. For example the holder of a copyright in a song may perform the song in public.
⁃ Example: Michael writes a song. He is the only individual who can perform that song without violating his copyright. Other example may include showings of movies, performances of plays, recitations of literary works or skits, etc.
• Public Display – The holder may publicly display the work.
⁃ Example: An example would include displaying art, such as paintings or photography, in galleries or exhibits.
In summary, the owner of the copyright may sell, assign, or otherwise transfer her copyright. She may also license any of these rights to third parties. A license is any transfer of rights that are less than complete ownership of the copyright.
• Note: A transfer of rights in the copyright must be done in writing and signed by the copyright holder.
• Discussion: How do the rights of the copyright holder compare to those of patent and trademark holders? Do you believe these rights are adequate? Why or why not?
• Practice Question: Frank is a musician. He regularly composes new musical arrangements. As such, he is the copyright holder of these original creative works. Can you explain to Frank the rights associated with his copyrights?