Copyright is a legal term describing the economic rights given to creators of literary and artistic works, including the right to reproduce the work, to make copies, and to perform or display the work publicly. Copyrights offer essentially the only protection for music, films, novels, poems, architecture, and other works of cultural value. As artists and creators have developed new forms of expression, categories of copyrights have expanded to include them. Computer programs and sound recordings are eligible for copyright protection.
Copyrights endure much longer than some other forms of IP. The Berne Convention mandates that the period of copyright protection cover the life of the author plus 50 years. Under the Berne Convention, literary, artistic, and other qualifying works are protected by copyright as soon as they exist. The United States permits copyright to be conditioned upon a work having been created in fixed form. In the United States, for example, the Constitution gives Congress the power to enact laws establishing a system of copyright, and this system is administered by the Library of Congress' Copyright Office. The U.S. Copyright Office serves as a place where claims to copyright are registered and where documents relating to copyright may be recorded when the requirements of the U.S. copyright law are met.
For software code written to a medium, the copyright must be registered before a party can sue for its infringement.
Only the creator or those deriving their rights through the creator--a publisher, for instance--can rightfully claim copyright. Regardless of who holds the copyright, however, rights are limited. In the United States, copyright law allows the reproduction of portions of works for purposes of scholarship, criticism, news reporting, or teaching. Similar "fair use" provisions also exist in other countries. Copyright protects arrangements of facts, but it does not cover newly collected facts. Moreover, copyright does not protect new ideas and processes; they may be protected, if at all, by patents.