Criminal Copyright Infringement— 17 U.S.C. § 506 and 18 U.S.C. § 2319

What Copyright Law Protects

Copyright law has two goals: to protect the rights of authors, and, thereby, to foster development of more creative works for the benefit of the public. The Constitution, in granting Congress the power to enact intellectual property laws, describes both these goals and the means to achieve it: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." U.S. Const., art. I, § 8, cl. 8. Maintaining an appropriate balance between protecting works and incentives for creators of works, on the one hand, and disseminating knowledge and information to the public, on the other, is a constant theme throughout the history of copyright law. See Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S. 151, 156 (1975).
The creator of an original work of expression, fixed in a tangible medium, is granted for a limited time a copyright, which is the exclusive right to copy, distribute, and make certain other uses of the work. Copyright law protects all "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device." 17 U.S.C. § 102(a) (emphasis added). "Originality" in copyright law is a low threshold: the work need only have been independently created by the author, as opposed to copied from another, previous work, and it must possess only a minimal degree of creativity. See Section II.B.1.a. of this Chapter.
An important limitation of copyright is that it protects only the creative expression of an idea, but not the idea itself. See Section II.B.1.a. of this Chapter. Novel ideas, methods, and processes may enjoy protection under patent law (or other areas of law, such as trade secret protection), but are not copyrightable. For example, consider a microbiologist who invents a new technique for modifying particular genes in a cell, then writes an article for a magazine that describes the technique. The article may be protected by copyright as the author's original expression of his or her ideas regarding this new technique. The technique itself, however, would not be copyrightable, although it may be patentable.
Copyrights are also distinct from trademarks, which protect the exclusive use of certain names, pictures, and slogans in connection with goods or services. They are discussed in Chapter III of this Manual. Trademarks need not be original or creative. Moreover, many trademarks consist of short single words or short phrases that are ineligible for copyright protection. See Section II.B.1.a.ii. of this Chapter. Despite the differences between copyrights and trademarks, some items may be both copyrighted and trademarked, such as the image of Disney's Mickey Mouse.
To be continued.

Source: web-site of U.S. Department of Justice. Prosecuting Intellectual Property Crimes, Third Edition. September 2006: