IV. Now that I have the copyright to something, what does this allow me to do?

IV. Now that I have the copyright to something, what does this allow me to do?

So you’ve figured out that you’ve made something that met the requirements to have copyright protection. And you may have even taken the optional next step to formally register your work. Now, you might be starting to wonder what exactly does copyright protection give you?

Copyright law gives you the exclusive right to:

(1) reproduce (copy) the copyrighted work;
(2) prepare new versions and adaptations of you original copyrighted work;
(3) publicly distribute the copyrighted work; (4) publicly perform the copyrighted work;
(5) publicly display the copyrighted work; and
(6) digitally perform copyrighted sound recordings.

You have the power to enforce these rights against others, or you can choose to ignore when people violate these rights. You, as the copyright holder, are the only person who has the power to assert these rights. This power is called standing.

For example, some big company used your illustration in one of its advertisements without getting your permission, you can find a lawyer who will take your case and make a big fuss over it. Or not. The law doesn’t require you do anything. You can do as much or as little as you want to enforce your six rights.


As an interesting aside, this is a major difference between trademark and copyright law. Trademark law requires trademark holders take legal action to protect their trademarks against others even in situations where they may not want to enforce their rights. If a trademark owner doesn’t enforce his or her rights, that trademark could eventually be invalidated. This is called Trademark Dilution.


If you have questions about how to take advantage of your copyrighted works in practice or how the copyright laws affect the art and entertainment business, feel free to contact New Media Rights via our contact form to find out whether you qualify for free or reduced fee legal services. We also offer competitive full fee legal services on a selective basis. For more information on the services we provide click here.

Frequently asked questions about what copyright protect allows you to do if you have it.

What rights does a copyright holder have?

Is it legal to record a cover of someone else’s song?

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