LaunchHER Law :: Tell the Copycats to SCAT!

LaunchHER says ::  Again this week, we are thrilled to share LaunchHER Law with you!  Today’s feature is part three in our series by Kara Jensen Zitnick, Esq.  A seasoned small business attorney, Kara’s advice in Week One and Week Two was spot-on!  Already looking forward to next week!
Tell the Copycats to SCAT!
By
Kara J. Jensen Zitnick, Esq.
Jensen Zitnick, P.A.
JensenZitnickPA@gmail.com
Twitter :: @launchherlaw
The material contained herein is meant as general information only and should not be taken as legal advice.  No attorney-client relationship exists as a result of merely reading this article.  Should you require legal assistance, you may inquire further via email at JensenZitnickPA@gmail.com.
            Understanding the basics concepts of copyright law is essential whether you are a blogger, researcher, author, photographer, or anyone who publishes their own creative works.  Primarily, you should have a basic understanding of copyright law in order to protect your own legal rights.  Secondly, a working knowledge of copyright law will guide you on how you can lawfully use someone else’s work – whether you are summarizing that work, quoting from it, or reprinting.
What Copyright Covers
            Copyright law is a federal law which covers a broad spectrum of creative work, referred to as “works of authorship,” protecting almost all creative work that can be written down or otherwise captured in a tangible form:
·         Literary works (any prose or any other form of “words-only” creative work)
·         Musical works (covers music and lyrics)
·         Dramatic works (plays and accompanying music)
·         Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works (any kind of two- or three-dimensional art)
·         Motion pictures and other audiovisual works (any kind of multimedia; television shows, YouTube videos, movies)
·         Sound recordings (a separate copyright protects a recording artist’s rendition of the above music and lyrics)
·         Architectural works (blueprints for buildings)
Copyright Ownership
            Owning a copyright gives you the exclusive use of that work.  You hold the exclusive right to publish, copy or otherwise reproduce that work; whether to distribute the work; and to display or perform the work. Ownership also gives you the exclusive right to prepare the original work in a new form, “derivative works,” such as making a novel into a movie.
            Acquiring a copyright for your creative work is very easy. Really, you do not need to take any additional steps beyond creating the work for a copyright to exist.  Publication of the creative work is not a requirement.  Attaching a copyright notice or registering the work with the Copyright Office in the Library of Congress isn’t required, either.  The only requirement, under the law, is that the copyrightable works be “original.”
So Why Register Your Copyrighted Work?
            My previous two articles for LaunchHER have both emphasized the importance of any business endeavor to consider what their intellectual property consists of and what their value is to the business.  During the course of those discussions we’ve touched on copyrights and mentioned how the legal protections that copyright law offers should be given serious thought to. But if your work is copyrighted upon completion, why copyright, you may ask?  Great question.
            Because a copyright is part of that field we’ve talked about called “intellectual property,” a copyright, just like the other intangible property that makes up IP (trademarks, patents and trade secrets), can be bought sold, given away, licensed to others and bequeathed at death. For example: an author’s contract with a publisher is a license; the copyright is held by the author, but the revenue of the book is shared with the publisher when the author gives the publisher permission to edit, print and distribute the work.  Freelancer writers, especially in the newspaper realm, often sell their works outright. If, as part of your employment, you create copyrighted works, ownership of the copyright most likely belongs to the employer as part of your relationship.
            Copyright law grants the holder five exclusive rights to control the distribution and use of the copyrighted work.  The 5 exclusive rights are:
1.      The reproduction right;
2.      The derivative work right;
3.      The distribution right;
4.      The performance right; and,
5.      The display right.
The importance of formally registering your copyright and depositing a copy of your work for possible collection by the Library of Congress as required by the federal copyright statutes, attaches when you feel a copyrighted work of yours is being/has been infringed upon.  An owner cannot sue for copyright infringement until the copyright is registered.  In the event you discover what you believe to be infringement, in order to bring suit and recover statutory damages as well as attorneys’ fees, your copyright must be formally registered.  Monetary awards in copyright infringement cases usually consist of damages, profits, and statutory damages.
What You Can Do
            To afford your creative works the full extent of copyright protection, you may want to consider formally registering and depositing copies of the work with the Library of Congress.  In doing so, not only are you adding another protective layer to your creative venture’s assets, you are also telling those would-be copycats to scat.  A formal copyright registration and proof thereof is another tell-tale sign of the intelligence behind the creativity of your brand.
©2010 Kara J. Jensen Zitnick, Esq. All rights reserved
No part may be copied or reproduced with express written permission from the author.
Jensen Zitnick, P.A.

Comments

  1. monkey-toes says:

    This is a great article! It means so much to have that little piece of paper behind you when you need to approach a copy cat! (I've had my fair share) Another thing to consider is building up your IP, you never know when it might be extremely valuable to another company or when exercising an exit strategy (think the big picture) and you could miss out on opportunities if you don't have these things filed.

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