A copyright is the exclusive legal right granted by a government, given to an author, editor, publisher etc. to publish produce, sell, or distribute copies of their work. Moral rights by a creator can also have the right to be credited for the work. Copyright can also be associated with intellectual property, patents and trademarks.
Intellectual Property - http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ahrpa/opa/museum/1intell.htm
Copyright is enforced as a civil matter, although some jurisdictions do apply criminal sanctions. The term copyright has been internationally standardized and can last between fifty to a hundred years from the authors death. Copyright originates back to Britain in 1710 with the Statue of Anne. http://www.copyrighthistory.com/anne.html. It established the author of a work as the owner of the right to copy that work and the concept of a fixed term for that copyright. It was created as an act for the encouragement of learning, and at the time that publishers were reprinting the works of authors without them knowing. Copyright was first created with the intention that authors might have some control over the printing of their work and to receive some financial recompense, so that this would encourage them to write more books and encourage the flow of ideas and learning. As the act itself says: "for the encouragement of learned men to compose and write useful books". The statue of Anne was the first real copyright act, and gave the authors rights for a fixed period, a fourteen year term for all works published the Statute, after which the copyright expired. Copyright has grown from a legal concept regulating copying rights in the publishing of books and maps to one with a significant effect on nearly every modern industry, covering such items as sound recordings, films, photographs, software, and architectural works.
In order for work to qualify as a copyright, it must meet the minimal standards of originality. The copyright also usually exprires after a set period of time. Places around the world have different laws on copyright policies. In Australia and the United Kingdom, a single word is not sufficient enough to compromise as copyright work. However, single words of a small group of words can sometimes be registered as a trademark instead. http://inventors.about.com/od/inventing101trademarks/f/trademark.htm
Laws on copyrights are recognized by the author and whether or not the work is an original creation, and not based on if its unique. Two authors can also own copyrighted work on two substantially identical works, as long as the duplication was coincedental and the work wasn’t copied.
Poor man’s copyright is new and cheap way for creators to copyright their work. Because the costs with copyright registration might be high, creators of work have established evidence of ownership and creation of work by mailing it to themselves. This cheap practice bacame known in the United States as the poor man’s copyright. However, the United States Copyright Office makes it clear that this technique is not a real substitute for actual copyright registration. Another example of this method can include depositing a copy of the work with a bank or attorney.
The Duration of copyrights are not all the same, and some are more complicated than others. There are a variety of lengths in different jurisdictions. The type of the copyright has a lot to do with how long the term may last. Some of the factors to take into consideration are the work, wether it may be simple words or a novel, has the work been published or not? Was the work created by an individual or a corporation? The default length for a copyright in most of the world is the life of the author plus either 50 or 70 years. The term for most existing works in the United States is a fixed number of years after the date of creation or publication.