The Basics of Copyrights: Exceptions to the Rules

As we have discussed earlier, “original” and “creative” works of various types are afforded copyright protection under the Federal Copyright Act of 1976. These works can include but are not limited to the following:

Motion Pictures
Graphic Arts/Sculpture
Dramatic Works
Architectural Works

These copyright protections commence from the moment the work is created and “fixed in any tangible medium.” This means that a work does not need to be published to be protected, merely saved in any form or format. This affords the author, artist or creator of the work to have exclusive right to publish, distribute, sell, lease or perform this copyrighted material.

However, as in most cases, where there are rules, there are also exceptions. Original works can be reproduced under what is known as the “doctrine of fair use”. This exception allows for reproduction and limited distribution for such uses as criticism, news reporting, comment, teaching, scholarship or research. For example, a high school teacher who makes copies of a copyright protected poem for his or her students to read and comment on is not in violation of copyright laws.

Another exception in copyright laws is what is known as “Work for Hire.” This exception applies when person or employer engages an individual or group to create an “original” work on their behalf while receiving compensation in any form. This affords the person compensating the creator to hold the copyright for the material for which they have engaged the creator. For example, had I hired another individual to author this article on my behalf and had compensated that person in any way, I would be the owner of this copyrighted material. When dealing with Work for Hire arrangements, I have always encouraged the employer to obtain an express written agreement signed by both parties.

About the Author

Henry V. Boezi, III has been practicing law for over 25 years and specializes in Copyright, Trademark, Patent and Intellectual Property Law. Henry holds both J.D. and M.I.P. (Masters of Intellectual Property) degrees. He also received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering which affords him a unique background in these areas of legal practice. Henry can be reached at or at his web site,



This article is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and readers are encouraged to consult a qualified attorney regarding these matters.


Tagged . Bookmark the permalink.