Copyright Laws

When most people think of creative expression, they normally think of the work done by authors or musicians. But in today's business environment, these examples are just two of the many business components that are eligible for copyright protection.

In today’s hyper-competitive business environment, the over-all value of a business is not just determined by their assets. An important part of a company's value is its ability to develop and monetize a steady stream of new ideas.

In this regard, valuable creative components of a business can be protected under U.S. Copyright Laws. Examples of a company's creative components can be:

  • sales brochures
  • advertising
  • solicitation letters and emails
  • instruction manuals
  • architectural and engineering drawings
  • pictures
  • photographs
  • graphical images
  • web-site designs
  • computer software
  • music
  • and sound recordings

Copyright protection is typically good for 70 years and protects your original expression of an idea, whether literary, artistic, commercial or otherwise. And it is always used to protect original works of authorship that are used as part of a normal business practice - like those examples shown above.

With our current laws, copyright protection is given even if the copyright owner does not register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office. However, if you find that someone else has "borrowed" your work or is using it with permission, you must register the work with the Copyright Office before you begin any legal proceedings.

In addition, if the owner of the work registers the work within three months of first publishing it, he or she will be able to ask the courts for statutory damages and have their attorney fees paid if they proceed with an infringement action. With the protection Copyright gives you and the low-cost of registration, it's a good idea to protect any work that you believe is valuable.

Copyright protection also gives the owner the exclusive right to:

  • reproduce the work
  • prepare derivative works based upon the work
  • distribute copies of the work to the public
  • perform the work publicly
  • and display the work publicly

There is one significant disadvantage of copyright protection - and that is an individual can claim "independent creation" as a valid defense to any copyright infringement action. In other words, a defendant can avoid being found guilty of copyright infringement if they can show that they did not copy from your work.

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If you would like to speak with an attorney about your particular copyright situation, please do not hesitate to call our office.

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