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Copyright is explicitly provided for in the US Constitution. Article 1, Section 8 says Congress shall have the Power to Promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries This clause gives Congress the power to grant the author or the owner of a creative work a bundle of exclusive rights to use or exploit their work in certain ways.
This set of exclusive rights is known as copyright--once a work is copyrighted, no one else can do any of these things without the permission of the copyright owner. This clause is often referred to as the intellectual property clause, since it gives Congress the power to give people the right to profit by the use of their intellect--it covers patents as well as copyrights.
It is very rare that the Constitution actually lists any specific reasons for the powers that are granted to government, but a reason is spelled out here.
The Constitution says that the purpose of copyright as well as patents and intellectual property laws in general is to advance the progress of science and the useful arts—the 18th century way of saying that the ultimate purpose of copyright and patent laws is to promote the advancement of knowledge, art, and technology.
The purpose of copyright and patent laws is not to provide authors and inventors with an income—the establishment of a legal system that ensures that authors and inventors can get paid for their work is a means, not an end.
The Framers imagined that the best way to promote the advancement of technology and knowledge was to ensure that authors and inventors could obtain financial remuneration for their efforts, which would encourage them to produce still more works.
Over the years, Congress has passed numerous laws that have given legal backing to the notion of copyright, including the granting of a set of exclusive rights to copyright holders.
Among the rights that Congress has given to the copyright owner is the exclusive right to publish or distribute copies of the work, as well as the exclusive right to perform or display the work in public. Also included among the bundle of rights granted by Congress to the copyright holder is the exclusive right to make a copy of their work, as well as the exclusive right to create a derivative work based on the original work.
Basically, copyright is a government-mandated monopoly that is granted to the copyright owner, one which if properly exercised is supposed to benefit the public by encouraging artists and authors to create still more works.
Copyright grants the artist an exclusive monopoly on the performance, adaptation, publication, or distribution of their work, but the Framers were highly suspicious of any sort of monopoly, so they deliberately required that the monopoly had to be a limited one, that it would expire after a certain amount of time, and afterwards the work would be free for anyone to use in whatever manner they liked.
The Framers felt that the monopoly that copyright grants must of necessity be limited so as to avoid the danger of any sort of monopolistic stagnation, and always be an effective mechanism by which the storehouse of knowledge would steadily increase and by which democracy would grow and flourish.
Copyright was intended to be a delicate balance between the economic interests of authors and publishers and the interests of consumers, readers, and the public at large, one that if properly observed should encourage authors to create still more works but at the same time should also provide a benefit to the public as a whole.
What can be copyrighted? Just about anything, it turns out. The first copyright law, passed by Congress ingave protection only to maps, charts, and books, but in succeeding years copyright protection was gradually expanded to cover more and more categories of artistic and intellectual creativity.
Copyright nowadays applies to just about every form of creative expression one can think of: Also copyrightable are computer software programs, computer operating systems, even embroidery patterns. However, not everything can be copyrighted.
Copyright really only applies to original works of authorship that involve some sort of creative expression. Expressions that lack originality or expressions that lack creativity cannot be copyrighted. Works commissioned by the federal government cannot be copyrighted.
Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form cannot be copyrighted. Utilitarian objects cannot be copyrighted.Newsarama is your source for comic book news, reviews and all-things genre entertainment.
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