Do You Really Need to Copyright Your Original Works?
The answer to the question posed by this post’s title is an unequivocal, “yes.” The simple explanation for this is that it grants you a significant amount of legal protection for your copyrighted material. This blog will expand on that statement and explain why it is worth it for creatives to file for copyright protection.
WHAT CAN BE COPYRIGHTED?
There is a lot of confusion over what, exactly, can be copyrighted. The short answer, from copyright.gov, is “original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture” that are “fixed in a tangible medium of expression.” Essentially, creative works receive copyright protection; even some written jokes can be copyrighted. One advantage for creatives is that eligible materials are copyrighted as soon as they are created. However, as we’ll cover next, this only provides a limited amount of legal protection for copyright owners.
WHAT IF YOUR COPYRIGHTS AREN’T REGISTERED?
If your unregistered copyrights are copied by someone else, then you may pursue some types of damages in court. However, these damages are limited to lost profits and actual damages, which are difficult to prove.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF REGISTERING YOUR COPYRIGHT FAST?
Registering your creative works with the U.S. Copyright Office opens up a whole new world of legal protection. One immediate advantage is that your copyrighted works are entered into a public record, easily accessible to those who perform database searches. Additionally, owners of registered copyrights are able to sue infringers AND are eligible to receive statutory damages in court. Statutory damages can be under $1,000 for some violations up to $150,000 for willful infringement.
However, you must register your copyright quickly to be able to pursue statutory damages. The timeline for this is either:
- Within three months of the copyright’s publication
- Any point (generally) before it is infringed upon
ARE CREATIVES THE ONLY ONES WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM COPYRIGHT PROTECTION?
No! Just because you don’t make a living out of performing music, writing the next Great American Novel, or making people laugh doesn’t mean you can’t make use of the U.S. Copyright Office. Many websites and software are eligible for copyright protection. Certain marketing materials, like photographs or written copy, may also be copyrighted.
There is a widely held belief that registering intellectual property is, simply, not worth the money or trouble. This couldn’t be further from the truth, though. Taking care of this now is preferable to losing out on a majority of future income.
The Browne Firm is well-prepared to help you find the best way to protect the integrity of your business’s most precious assets.