I. Why Do I Need A Copyright?
Here are some scenarios where copyrights are at issue:
- Someone downloaded all of the content and graphics off my website and is now using it on their website.
- I recently learned that the same floral designs I created for my clothing company are being copied and used by other printers without my permission.
- I saw photographs that I previously took, now being used in a catalog to sell someone else’s product. I never gave them permission to do so.
- I can tell that the source code of my program is being duplicated in my competitor’s computer program.
- The song that I wrote and produced is now being used and distributed by my former band member.
- Is it true that I cannot be entitled to royalties for my song unless I copyright it?
- I am going to send a synopsis of my script to a production company and they want me to sign a release form. Will my script be protected or can they steal it?
- I registered my manuscript with the Writers Guild of America, isn't that enough protection?
- I am creating an animated short to be entered into many film festivals. Is the name and look of my main character protected before my short is released?
Registration for a copyright application may have protected the works in the above scenarios.
II. Protection under the Copyright Laws
The authority for copyright protection can be found in United States Code Title 17. It provides to the authors of "original works of authorship," including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. Protection is available for both published and unpublished works. Under Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act, the owner of copyright has the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
1. To reproduce the work;
2. To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
3. To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending; the work in copies or phonorecords;
4. To perform the work publicly, and in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
5. To display the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work; and
6. In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.
III. How Do I Enforce the Rights in My Copyright?
Simple, we will prepare and apply for your copyright registration. Why is it so important to have a registered copyright?
- Your registration will establish a public record of your copyright thereby putting the world on notice.
- Registration is simply a prerequisite to filing an infringement suit in the U.S.
- Your registration certificate serves as prima facie evidence of the validity of your copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate if your work is registered within five years of first publication.
- If your work is registered prior to the act of infringement, you will be entitled to certain additional damages. Further, attorney’s fees may be available to a prevailing litigant. Otherwise if you fail to register prior to the act of infringement, you will only be entitled to an award of actual damages (keep in mind that you still must register before filing your suit).
- Copyright registration entitles the copyright owner to file with customs to prevent the importation of infringing copies of a work.
IV. What Can I Copyright?
Here is a nonexhaustive list of some of the things that may be copyrightable.
Fiction nonfiction manuscripts, music, computer programs, websites, books, poetry contributions to collective works, dissertations, theses, advertising copy, reference works, reports, bound or loose leaf volumes, secure tests, speeches, single pages of text, online works, textbooks, compilations of data or other literary subject matter, directories, pamphlets, catalogs, tracts, brochures, games, posters, commercial prints, labels, drawings, paintings, murals, sculptures, photographs, photomontages, bumper stickers, decals, models, artwork applied to clothing or to other useful articles, dolls, toys, patterns for sewing, knitting, crochet, needlework, artificial flowers and plants, mosaics reproductions, such as lithographs, collotypes, needlework and craft kits, cartoons, comic strips, holograms, computer and laser artwork, cartographic works, original prints, fabric, wallcovering designs, puzzles, enamel works, record jacket artwork or photography, greeting cards, postcards, stationery, stained glass designs, etc.