|Lucky finds all the copyright talk exhausting...|
Seeing these characters displayed on the walls made me wonder if the restaurant received permission. In displaying the images, there is the implication that the restaurant is somehow affiliated with these characters and by association, the companies that created them. Most of the companies that handle the copyright for these characters are very careful in where these characters appear, so that raised even more questions (It's possible that the restaurant did receive the necessary permission for use of these likenesses, I don't mean to suggest otherwise or that their use of these images represented any malice on their part).
It made me wonder in this digital age what we, as writers, should do to protect our work. As I contemplate releasing my first novel as an e-book, I did a bit of research into this matter. I found some interesting information in the area of copyrights. First of all, the length of a copyright is not the same for all works, it varies depending on when the work was published. All works published after 1978 carry their copyright for the length of the author's life plus 70 years. Works published before 1923 are in the public domain. Works that are published anonymously, or under a pseudonym, are covered between 90 and 120 years depending when the work is published.
I also found out that once a work is fixed,--when a work appears in some tangible form, it is covered by copyright. Tangible forms include: emails, ebooks and hard copies of manuscripts, but even hand-written diaries fulfill the fixed requirement. Live performances, such as speeches, that have not been transcribed or recorded with the permission of the artist would not be covered by a copyright.
So if you write it, it will be covered. Oh yeah, that great idea you have, that's not covered until you put it down on paper...
For more information, the NOLO.com includes some important information in this area.