Copyright law aims to protect the rights of the owner of a piece of intellectual property, in particular, pictorial, graphical, or sculptural works. At the heart of copyright law for intellectual property is the concept of publication; the regulations of copyright law dictates how the copies of the intellectual property are to be distributed and used.
But what defines “published?” First of all, published works have multiple copies, not merely a single copy that is visible to the public. A statue or painting displayed in public is not considered a published work, and neither is a private work of art sold to a private collector.
First of all, published materials are tangible, like all ideas that are subject to copyright law. Formulas, pitches, and variations in typography cannot be copyrighted, but the actual finished work can be. Second, publication entails copies. Several copies of a statue or painting are considered published works whereas single copies of a work displayed in public or sold in private are not considered published copies are subject to vastly different legal regulations.
Visibility itself is not enough to count the work as published. Photographs visible in the public parts of a website count as published whereas those displayed in a more private corner are not. The subsequent copies must be sold in some way; a gallery selling photographs is publishing a work for an author.
Publication status determines many other details, such as the number of copies and necessary materials deposited to register a work. Knowing if a work counts as published influences the course of action necessary to protect its copyright.
Atty. Irah Donner specializes in issues and audits surrounding intellectual property rights. Visit this Facebook page for more updates on copyright and related intellectual property issues.