According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office:
A Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of 'original works of authorship' including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work, to perform the copyrighted work publicly, or to display the copyrighted work publicly.
The copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the writing. For example, a description of a machine could be copyrighted, but this would only prevent others from copying the description; it would not prevent others from writing a description of their own or from making and using the machine. Copyrights are registered by the Library of Congress' Copyright Office.
There are times when you may desire a combination of copyright, patent and trademark protection for your work. You should consult an attorney to determine what forms of intellectual property protection are best suited to your needs.
Requirements for writing becoming public domain:
The work was created and first published before January 1, 1923, or at least 95 years before January 1 of the current year, whichever is later;The last surviving author died at least 70 years before January 1 of the current year;If either of these are met a work becomes public domain.
The poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling was written in 1910. This meets the first requirement. Kipling died in 1936 meeting the requirement of the second condition. (Note both do not need to be met just one)
"A copyright attorney provides legal counsel regarding copyright law. A copyright attorney could be an asset in assisting a client obtain and registering a copyright, transfering ownership of a copyright, helping avoid copyright violations, and protecting the client's own copyright. Although any attorney may counsel regarding copyright law, copyright attorneys can be a great asset where specific copyright issues are addressed."
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