Five Exclusive Rights of Copyright Owners

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Copyright rights belong to the owner of the copyright of a particular media work, such as a book, movie, TV show or recording. The U.S. Copyright Office narrowed these rights to five to help those holding copyrights recognize what their exclusive rights are in a simple format. Fair Use, however, provides somewhat of a limit on these rights, and a few other limitations apply as well.

Reproduction Right

This first copyright right is basically the crux of what it means to hold a copyright. It allows you to reproduce your own work in any fashion at any time. The right also helps prevent other people from reproducing your work, such as photocopying or creating a duplicate of the work or using all or some of your song in a recording.

Right to Create Derivative Works

While this in itself is slightly derivative of the reproduction right, it’s still mentioned by the U.S. Copyright Office to help specify the definition of a derivative work. The right allows you to make a transformation of your work -- for example, adapting your novel into a screenplay or making a musical arrangement from a prior song you wrote. This also applies to creating abridged works. Your copyright prevents others from performing these activities.

Distribution Right

With this right, you can distribute your work in any way you want for profit. This includes putting your work up for sale or rent. Only the copyright holder can do this, though the law is limited to the first distribution of your work. For instance, if you sell your first book at a bookstore, you control that initial distribution, but other people have a right to rent it or lend it to other people afterward without your consent.

The Right of Public Performance

This simple right is self-explanatory. You have a right to perform your own works in public places at any time. The term “public” is defined on the Bitlaw website as a performance done publicly with a large gathering of people. But limitations apply when it comes to the type of works that can be performed in public without your permission. Some examples of exemptions to the copyright include performance of your work for the purpose of an educational course at a nonprofit educational institution, performance of your work without admission charges, plus performance of a religious work by you at a place of worship or for religious assembly.

Read More: Music Performance Copyright Laws

The Right of Public Display

This is an extension of the public performance right, except it deals with display rather than performance. Some examples include pictorial, graphical and sculptural works. You, as the copyright holder, have a right to display your own pictorial works at any time. However, rights for others to display your work without legal repercussions are the same as with public performance rights, according to

Fair Use

Fair Use is a significant limitation when it comes to others using your copyrighted works. In most cases, the use of a work for criticism, teaching or research is an example of how someone else can legally use your work without being legally challenged. Other factors the U.S. Copyright Office considers when dealing with Fair Use are the purpose behind the use of your work, what type of copyrighted work it is, the amount of the copyrighted work used and the effect upon the copyrighted work’s marketability after being used by someone else.

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