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To establish ownership of a valid copyright, a plaintiff must show that its work is original, can be copyrighted, and that it has complied with all applicable statutory formalities. [1]


Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim copyright.

In the case of a work made for hire, the employer and not the employee is considered to be the author.

The authors of a joint work are co-owners of the copyright in the work, unless there is an agreement to the contrary.

Copyright in each separate contribution to a periodical or other collective work is distinct from copyright in the collective work as a whole and vests initially with the author of the contribution.

Exclusive rights of copyright owner[]

Copyright ownership entitles the copyright owner to:

Distinction from ownership of material object incorporating the copyrighted work[]

An important distinction to understand is the difference between ownership of a copyright in a work and ownership of a copy of a work. Ownership of a copy — the material object in which a copyrighted work is embodied (e.g., a book, CD or videocassette) — carries with it no interest in the copyright.[2]

Ownership of a copyright, or any of the exclusive rights under a copyright, is distinct from ownership of any material object in which the work is embodied. Transfer of ownership of any material object, including the copy or phonorecord in which the work is first fixed, does not of itself convey any rights in the copyrighted work embodied in the object; nor, in the absence of an agreement, does transfer of copyright ownership or of any exclusive rights under a copyright convey property rights in any material object.[3]

Ownership, possession or any other attachment to or relationship with a copy of a copyrighted work (including obtaining access to it through a computer network or other service) does not entitle one to exercise any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner (e.g., to reproduce it or to perform it publicly).


  1. FurnitureDealer.Net, Inc v., Inc, 2022 WL 891473, at *6 (D.Minn. 2022).
  2. See 17 U.S.C. §202.
  3. Id.