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Copyright Law Frequently Asked Questions

On Behalf of | Dec 28, 2023 | Copyright Law

A copyright is a set of rights that automatically belong to a person who creates an original work of authorship. Creators of songs, literary works, movies, and software have certain rights regarding that work. Copyright owners have a right to reproduce their work, prepare derivative works, display the work, perform the work, and to distribute copies of the work. Copyright issues also arise for entrepreneurs. Copyright owners do not need to formally register their copyright. If you are an artist or entrepreneur, web developer, or a business that owns copyrightable assets, understanding the basics of copyright law can be incredibly helpful.

What is Copyright?

A copyright is a legal right to use an original work of authorship such as written works or musical works. Additionally, website content, logo designs, software code, and other technology assets are also protected by copyright. Owners of copyrighted materials have the exclusive authority to exercise rights over the material.

What are the Requirements of an Original Work of Authorship?

An original work must be fixed in a medium, such as in a recording, in a digital file, or on paper. Original works of authorship must also be original, creative, and fixed. For a work to be original, someone must have independently created the work. The creator cannot have copied the work from another work. However, the work does not need to be novel, unique, inventive, or imaginative as is required for a patent.

Additionally, the work must be creative. The creator of the work must demonstrate at least a minimal amount of creativity. Most works meet creativity requirements. Finally, the work must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression. This means that the work is sufficiently stable or permanent. Someone must be able to perceive the work, and reproduce the work. The work cannot be transitory.

How is Copyright Different From a Trademark?

A trademark protects phrases, symbols, designs, or words that identify a service or source of goods. An example of a trademark is McDonald’s golden arches or Nike’s “swoosh symbol.” A patent protects a discovery or an invention. The design of an iPhone can be patented. Copyright law cannot protect an idea of discovery, although copyright does protect ideas when they are in a fixed form.

Where do Copyrights Come From?

Copyrights are grounded in the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution grants that authors of original works of authorship have certain rights over their created assets. In order to seek copyright protection, the asset must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression. For example, an idea cannot be copyrighted. However, when an idea is written down on paper in a fixed medium, the work is copyrighted.

How Does an Owner Go About Getting a Copyright?

Registration of a copyright is optional. Copyright exists the moment that someone creates a work. However, if you would like to bring a copyright infringement lawsuit for a work created in the U.S., you will need to register your work.

What are the Benefits of Registering Copyrights?

Since copyrights are automatic, you might be wondering why you would ever need to register one. Why go through the expense and time of copyrighting a work when copyrights happen automatically? Registration of copyright can enhance the value of the work in several different ways. First, in a legal dispute over copyright, the copyright owner has the burden to prove that he or she is the valid copyright owner. A copyright owner cannot prevail unless he or she proves that he or she created the content in question.

Additionally, when your copyright is registered, a potential copyright infringer will have a more difficult time succeeding in court. Being able to provide a public record that demonstrates ownership of the copyright can prevent would-be copyright infringers from infringing on the copyright. When you see copyright infringement, having a registration will save you time when fighting for your rights.

Additionally, when a copyright owner registers his or her copyright prior to infringement, or within three months of publishing the work, the owner is eligible for statutory damages. Providing copyright infringement can be challenging, but receiving an award for statutory damages allows the copyright owner a way to recover compensation for each instance of infringement. Copyright owners can recover statutory damages even when they cannot prove actual damages from copyright infringement.

What is a ‘Poor Man’s Copyright,’ and do I Need it?

A ‘poor man’s copyright’ happens when someone sends a copy of work to himself or herself. This practice is mostly an urban myth and has basically no legal effect. No provision of federal copyright law gives protection for this form of a poor man’s copyright. Doing so will not substitute for registration of your copyright.

When Should I Register My Copyright?

Enforcement of copyright interests usually requires that you register your work for copyright. To register a copyright, you must submit an application with the United States Copyright Office. We recommend registering the copyright as soon as possible. Registering the work within three months of its first publication helps owners take advantage of all of the remedies available in the Copyright Act.

Do I Need a Copyright Attorney?

Many start-up owners are incredibly busy trying to grow their businesses and make a profit. It is understandable that they may not be able to identify all of their copyrightable assets. Our skilled team of business lawyers can assist a company in identifying all of its copyrightable assets. We help companies register their assets, making it easier to enforce their rights against those who infringe their copyrights.

Whether you need to identify and register your copyrightable assets, or you need to defend your copyrighted assets, we can help you understand your rights and defend your rights. Contact the reputable law firm in Chicago dealing with copyright issues atAU LLC as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation. While our law firm is located in downtown Chicago, we represent clients throughout the United States.