Are you a photographer? Software developer? Musician? Do you maintain an online presence or make online sales? Effective use of copyright protection can safeguard some of your most valuable business assets. Copyright can protect sales and marketing literature, business documents, or even the actual products you sell–like music, literature or software. Copyright law prohibits your competitors from duplicating your efforts for free and profiting from their malfeasance. Understanding what is and is not protected, and how to enforce your copyrights against competitors can provide your business with a competitive edge.
The Creekmore Law Firm has experience counseling business on how to protect a company’s copyright-protectable business assets, registering copyrights, licensing copyrighted material, and litigating copyright infringement. Providing service in the New River Valley, Roanoke Valley, Bedford, Lynchburg, Richmond, and beyond, we are ready to assist you with your copyright-related matter.
Copyright is a form of protection for “original works of authorship” provided by Title 17 of the United States Code and applies to literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual works.
Copyright protection exists from the moment a work is created in a fixed, tangible form of expression, at which time the copyright becomes the exclusive property of the author who created the work. No other action is required to secure the copyright, though registration is usually highly recommended. The Copyright Act of 1976 gives the owner of the copyright the exclusive right to do things like reproduce the work, prepare derivative works based on the original, distribute copies or perform the work publicly, and other related display and distribution rights, though these rights are not without limitation.
How long copyright protection lasts depends on the nature of the works and other factors. A work that was created and existed in fixed tangible form on or after January 1, 1978 is protected from the moment it was created through the life of the author plus an additional 70 years following the author’s death. Works made for hire and anonymous and pseudonymous works have a term of 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter. Works originally created before January 1, 1978 or created and published or registered before January 1, 1978 have different corresponding terms for copyright protection. While an author’s works are protected by copyright from the moment of creation and when placed in a fixed, tangible form, registration offers enhanced benefits. For example, registration provides copyright owners with advantages, including creating a public record of the copyright claim, allowing the owner to initiate an infringement suit in court (copyright registration is necessary for works of U.S. origin), and establishing prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright, and providing the owner with statutory damages and attorneys fees, depending on the timing of registration with respect to publication.
If someone other than you, by yourself, created the material you intend to register, it is highly advisable to have that person or entity execute either a copyright transfer agreement transferring rights to you or your business entity or at least license your right to use such material prior to proceeding with copyright or trademark registration of the material in question. Ensuring you have the rights to the material for which you intend to proceed with registration is one of the ways our Firm can help advise you and prepare the strongest intellectual portfolio possible with you and your business’s long term best interests in mind.
Generally not. Registration fees associated with copyright registration vary depending on the nature of the work, but for a single author work, the governmental filing fee is typically $35. For a work with multiple authors or that has been transferred between parties, the governmental filing fee is $55 per work. Of course, some attorney preparation time is necessary to complete the registration, but in the world of intellectual property, copyright registration less expensive than other types of registration.