The U.S. Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §§ 101 - 810, is Federal legislation enacted by Congress under its Constitutional grant of authority to protect the writings of authors.
The Copyright Act now reaches architectural design, software, the graphic arts, motion pictures, and sound recordings. As of January 1, 1978, all works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression and within the subject matter of copyright were deemed to fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Copyright Act regardless of whether the work was created before or after that date and whether published or unpublished.
The owner of a copyright has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, license, and to prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work.
Copyright protection subsists in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery. For example, if a book is written describing a new system of bookkeeping, copyright protection only extends to the author's description of the bookkeeping system; it does not protect the system itself.
According to the Copyright Act of 1976, registration of copyright is voluntary and may take place at any time during the term of protection.