A copyright is secured automatically upon creation of a work fixed in a copy or a phonorecord for the first time. The definition of a copy is "A material object from which a work can be read or otherwise perceived directly or by a method or transcription". These devices could contain books, manuscripts, sheet music, videotape, film or microfilm. A phonorecord is a sound of any sort recorded on different media. Whenever the first part of a work was created constitutes the date for the copyright.
Even though it is no longer a requirement, publication is still an important part of the copyright. It is an offer to distribute for further transfer. When you perform a work publicly it does not constitute publication. Certain foreign works had their copyrights restored after the Uruguay Round Agreements Act. According to the 1976 copyright act the dissemination of a play on phonograph or video tape constitutes publication, clear performances on stage however do not.
A work created in the United States has to have a copy delivered to the Library of Congress to constitute publication. The rights of an author can be limited by the work's publication. When an anonymous work is considered the date of publication determines the duration of a copyright. In the case of a copyright owner publishing the work, it has to contain the date it was published and the name of the author.
Even though a copyright notice is not a requirement it is very helpful even now. In works that are older, there is still a requirement of the copyright notice. If a US work was created without a copyright notice before the copyright act of 1976 then it would be taken in the public domain. Even though a notice is not legally required it helps when an action is brought in against or for a piece. It identifies the owner of the work and the date the copyright took effect, and gives weight to the case. If you have any questions your attorney will be happy to answer them for you.
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