Copyright infringement is a hot topic in the world of information and Internet blogging. On top of that, corporate empires own a huge chunk of published material. If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, you definitely want to remain vigilant about compliance. Here are some tips for smaller entities.
Know What Is and Isn’t Yours
Never claim something that you have not created. Also, remember that the federal government does not allow copyrights on any of the following:
Copyrighted work must be original and exhibit some form of creativity. It must also be something that can be either seen or heard. For example, an author may copyright a love song or a romance novel but not his or her creative idea.
Prep Your Material
Whether you create artwork for your storefront or a jingle for a new product line, always include a brief notice that states your ownership. The notice requirement expired in 1989, but it’s still a good idea to publish your name and date. Have you ever cut across a corner property instead of walking to the end of the sidewalk before making your turn? You know it’s private property, but unless there’s a fence, it’s easy to ignore protocol. The same principle applies.
Use the copyright symbol unless you’re protecting CDs, movies, digital video and other recorded material. Additionally, make sure you’re always including watermarks on photographic, hand-drawn and digitized images.
Own Your Rights
As a copyright owner, you have full control over the use, replication and distribution of your material. If you write a classical ballad, your friend cannot publish your lyrics as a rock song. Likewise, you can’t broadcast a published business seminar without obtaining written consent of the owner. You do have the right to sell, rent or otherwise transfer your own material, but all agreements must be made in writing.
Pay Attention to Dates and Jurisdiction
All material that was published before 1923 is currently public property. Works published between 1923 and 1978 may be copyrighted for 95 years. Anything after 1977 remains protected until 70 years after the author’s death, unless the work was unpublished. A copyright on commissioned material may last between 95 and 120 years.
With that said, don’t expect the same level of protection outside the United States. Some countries have adopted mutual copyright laws, but it’s best to consult a legal expert about the country in question.
Submit All Documents
Be sure to include all required documents, as well as a separate application package, for each work you intend to register. Bear in mind that there are additional requirements for movies, video games, 3-D works, oversized items and other specialized material. Ultimately, you can’t protect your material from infringement until you officially register with U.S. Copyright Office. If you have specific questions, get in touch with an attorney who specializes in intellectual property law.
Have a Tactful Action Plan
Get in the habit of regularly searching the Internet and finding out if and how people are using your images and content. The Internet is a haven for information, and most users have no idea how copyright laws apply online. Most online infringers are not malicious. Rather, they’re using corporate images as a way to share information about various companies and products. You may feel attacked or you may feel indifferent. It really depends on your specific business model and online presence. For most companies, minor infringements are not worth a fight. In fact, corrective action may actually do more harm than good. You should definitely exercise your rights against malicious action, but in all cases, just use your best judgment.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.