What does that really mean?
Along with Trademarks, Patents, Rights of Publicity, and Trade Secrets, Copyrights are among the bundle of rights that we collectively call Intellectual Property.
A copyright is a legal form of protection afforded to an original work of art or authorship that has been reduced to a tangible fixed format. Generally, copyright protects literary works, visual works, sound recordings, architectural works, choreographic and pantomimic works, dramatic works, and musical works. More specifically, copyright protects tangible items, such as books, articles, website content, photos, movies, blog posts, cartons, musical compositions, sound recordings, and scripts. What cannot be protected by copyright are ideas. Knowing how to put your ideas into a format that can be protected can be useful information.
As someone with really cool ideas, you’ve probably invested a lot of time and money developing those ideas. Next step, make sure you invest in the proper protection. What’s not proper? Falsely believing in the Poor Man’s Copyright, and not registering your valuable creative content with the United States Copyright Office.
Not all “original” content can be protected. Working with a competent copyright registration attorney, who understands the law can serve you well. They can not only advise you about current case law and legislative law, they can advise you about special nuances to registration. Indeed, a competent copyright attorney can provide you with useful copyright information. That being said, you can also do it yourself, but make sure you know what you are doing. Knowing copyright law and how the courts apply it can serve you well in the long run. Thinking you know what you don’t know can create problems down the road. Specially if you ever want to sue someone for infringing your rights.
Copyright Registration – Is it really necessary?
There are many different reasons why you should register your original creative content, e.g., books, articles, photographs, jewelry, music, web content, video, blog posts, and more.
First, without a registered copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, you have little to no chance of even bringing a lawsuit, let alone winning your case. And even if you could sue, it would cost you a fortune to prove that the copyrighted work in question is, in fact, yours and valid. Whether you are initiating a copyright infringement lawsuit or defending one, if your work is unprotected (not registered), you have a steeper mountain to climb. Plus, finding a lawyer who is willing to fight for you, without the chance of getting paid, is even more unlikely. At least with a registered copyright, you “might” be entitled to attorneys’ fees.
Second, it is important to pursue copyright registration in a timely manner. That means registering your work within the first 3 months after publication. If you do so, you “may” become eligible to receive fees set by the government, what we call statutory damages. This could be of real benefit, as those fees range anywhere from $750 per infringement all the way up to $150,000 per infringement, if it’s proven that the infringer intentionally and willfully infringed upon your work. Now isn’t that a good reason to get that valuable creative content registered?
The significance of possibly being entitled to statutory damages is that you don’t have to prove the exact amount of damages you suffered. This could benefit you, especially if it’s hard to show just how much you lost from someone infringing your valuable creative content.
Third, copyright registration is important because the Certificate of Registration will serve as evidence that you own the copyrighted work in question. It also provides you with the legal authority to send a “cease and desist” letter to the person that infringed your work. This usually encourages people to STOP using your work without permission, or purchase a license from you. Sometimes the threat of a lawsuit goes a long way. Just be careful not to threaten something you are not prepared to follow through with.
The Internet: An Amazing Communication Tool
The advent of the Internet, while a wonderful and advantageous communication tool, it has created new issues for copyright owners. It has made access to creative content easy, and has also made content easy to create, easy to disseminate, easy to display, and easy to reproduce and steal! As a result, many people think that if it is on the Internet, it is free. That is a lie!
People often conclude that if copyright is not mentioned when they view a creative work or there is no copyright symbol on the work that they can use it for any purpose they want. The reality is that the work is in fact copyrighted, regardless of whether the author mentions the copyright or not.
Whether it’s because they lack the knowledge or just don’t care, copyright infringement on the Internet is rampant. So as a creator of valuable content PROTECT YOUR ASSETS! Take the extra step to protect what you have invested time and money in creating.
And, as a general rule, if something is on the Internet and YOU didn’t create it, assume that someone else did. Assume that if someone else created it, you need permission to use it. Permission can come in the form of a license, a contract, public domain (no one owns it or the copyright has expired), or that your permission is granted through the fair use exception. CAVEAT: To take advantage of the Fair Use Doctrine, make sure you understand the rules or risk being sued for copyright infringement.
If you are interested in getting competent guidance, contact Francine TODAY.
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Francine D. Ward
Helping Individuals & Businesses Protect Their Intellectual Property
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Palm Desert, CA 92211
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