The Business of Creativity

Houchin Consulting PLLC


From Legal Information Institute:

“The U.S. Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §§ 101 – 810, is Federal legislation enacted by Congress under its Constitutional grant of authority to protect the writings of authors. See U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8. Changing technology has led to an ever expanding understanding of the word “writings”. The Copyright Act now reaches architectural design, software, the graphic arts, motion pictures, and sound recordings. See § 106 of the act. Given the scope of the Federal legislation and its provision precluding inconsistent state law, the field is almost exclusively a Federal one. See § 301 of the act.

A copyright gives the owner the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, or license his work. See § 106 of the act. The owner also receives the exclusive right to produce or license derivatives of his or her work. See § 201(d) of the act. Limited exceptions to this exclusivity exist for types of “fair use”, such as book reviews. See § 107 of the act. To be covered by copyright a work must be original and in a concrete “medium of expression.” See § 102 of the act. Under current law, works are covered whether or not a copyright notice is attached and whether or not the work is registered.

The federal agency charged with administering the act is the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. See § 701 of the act. Its regulations are found in Parts 201 – 204 of title 37 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

In 1989 the U.S. joined the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.”

Trademark v. Copyright

Sometimes these terms get used interchangeably by the general public, but these two areas of law protect different forms of creativity. Copyright protects all creative expression except for slogans, names, titles, and short phrases. These very things ARE protected by trademark as expressions used to identify and distinguish a product or service in the marketplace.

How do you get copyright protection?

Copyright protection attaches as soon as you express your original idea in a tangible form.

You don’t have to use the © to establish protection, however, using this symbol puts potential infringers on notice that you consider these expressions property and that you will be likely to protect that property interest.

Why Register your copyright?

Registration of your copyright with the library of congress allows you access to “statutory damages” in an infringement action – meaning you do not have to prove “actual damages” to receive monetary damages from the proven infringement.

When should you call an Attorney?

  • While the majority of enterprises and people can secure a copyright registration without the assistance of an attorney, it would be wise to consult an attorney in the following situations:
  • When you need to enforce your copyright against an alleged infringer.
  • When you want to create a licensing program to allow third parties to use your work for a fee.
  • When you have been accused (or are concerned you might be accused in the future) of infringing someone else’s copyright.
  • When you want to protect your copyright internationally.
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