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The United States Copyright Act protects original works from being used without permission from its owner.  The protections applies automatically, at the moment of the work's creation.

Copyright law protects literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, including poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software and architecture.

Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these concepts are expressed.

Legal penalties for copyright infringement may include financial consequences (from $200 to $150,000 for each individual act of infringement) and jail time.

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