Copyright protects all original expressions of an idea, story, drawing, written instructions and similar materials. It gives the owner exclusive right to reproduce/distribute copies, and create derivative works; as well as authorize others to do so. Copyright protects the author/owner from unlawful theft or inadvertent reuse or resale.
Copyright protection starts upon creation (i.e. as soon as a work is fixed in a tangible medium such as written down or entered into a computer). Copyright notices and/or copyright registrations are not needed for the protection to begin. However, notices and registration can be very beneficial.
The first, and simplest, step for increased Copyright protection is providing “Copyright Notice” on all your original works. Copyright Notice makes the public aware that the copyright owner is claiming ownership. Notice also identifies the copyright owner at the time the work was first published for parties seeking permission to use the work.
Copyright Notice consists of a single continuous statement that includes:
- The copyright symbol ©; the word “copyright”; or the abbreviation “copr.”
- The year of first publication of the work; and
- The name of the copyright owner.
For your key works of authorship, including for example unique software, databases, graphic user interfaces, manuals, writings, and recordings, it is beneficial to take the next step of Copyright Registration. Copyright registration provides additional protection including: a presumption of Copyright ownership and validity, constructive notice to competitors, and a legal foundation to pursue anyone found copying, selling and/or modifying your copyrighted work. Once registered, the copyright owner can sue for actual damages (such as lost profits) and for a court order to stop the sale of the illegal product. For most modern works, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. That’s a long time!
For United States protection, copyrights are registered with the United States Copyright Office by submitting an application to the Registrar of Copyrights along with a modest fee and a “deposit” of the work being registered. Balancing the low cost of registering a copyright with the large and long-lasting benefits, it is recommended that any of your significant, competitive works should be registered.
It’s important to be aware that Copyright protection is territorial. In other words, registering a United States Copyright does not provide you an “international copyright registration.” However, many countries, including the United States, have become a member of “The Berne Convention”, which provides protection in other countries. A United States author automatically is entitled to protection against the infringement of his work in a foreign jurisdiction that is a member of the Berne Union without having to register the work in the foreign jurisdiction or comply with any other formalities required in the foreign jurisdiction. If your copyright is infringed either in the United States or imported into the United States, you can bring suit under United States law in the United States. However, if your copyright is infringed in another country, then the suit must be brought in that country under their copyright laws. This is not insurmountable, but good to know.
Copyright protection can be a valuable mechanism to minimize your legal risk. It’s a good idea for you to evaluate your current practices and take that first step to securing your success.
Are you and/or your business Florida based? If so and you need help with your Copyright Protection, we’re here for you. Contact us here.