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What are copyright laws?

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Quick Answer

Copyright laws are laws that protect the intellectual property of writers, architects, software designers, filmmakers, musicians and visual artists. In the United States, these laws are part of the framework of the U.S. Copyright Act, according to Legal Information Institute of Cornell University Law School.

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Full Answer

The U.S. Copyright Act entitles copyright holders to perform, distribute, publish or copy their own copyrighted works. However, other people or groups must have permission from the copyright holder to use works protected under copyright.

Copyright can expire after a certain period of time. After this period, the works enter public domain, as reported by Stanford University Libraries. For works published between 1922 and 1978, copyright expires 95 years after the original publication. Works published after this period are under copyright for the life of the author plus 70 years.

International copyright laws are governed by the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, which is an international treaty that helps govern copyright laws between member countries. The U.S. joined the Berne Convention in 1989.

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