What are Copyrights and How Do I Use Them?
This article has been posted for informational and educational purposes only. This is not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created.
Intellectual Property is an important asset for any business, online or not. But in today’s digital world protection of one’s intellectual property is more important, and sometimes more difficult, than ever. This post is the first in a series of intellectual property posts. In this article we will go over the basis of copyrights. What are they? How do they work? How can I protect them?
Copyrights – Copyrights specifically apply to original works created by a person or group. The easiest way to think about it is that Copyrights apply only to “works of art” as long as you are willing to expand what you consider “art”. Ex: Books, eBooks, photos, video and audio recordings, advertisements, films, and other works of art.
Harry Potter is one of the most popular book series in recent memory.
The name “Harry Potter” has essentially become the brand name. Thus, to protect “Harry Potter” you would obtain a Trademark. You may also wish to trademark “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” since is the title of the book/product.
The work of art in the case of Harry Potter is the content of the book itself. To protect the content of the book you would obtain a copyright.
Essentially, you can think of the information on the cover of the book as the trademarks (it identifies the product and its source) and everything else in the book as copyrights, since it contains that original work of art.
So… how should you apply trademarks and copyrights to your online business?
When to use
To protect the content of your business you should obtain copyrights. For books, website content, and the content of products (audio/video training or information are included here)
copyrights will be the correct choice.
The purpose of copyrights is to protect the original creators of works so that others don’t steal their work and pass it off as their own. Copyrights also make it easier to license out your content, and have people pay you for the right to use your original works.
It’s true that some protections automatically apply to works as soon as they are created, or to brands as soon as they are established. However, these protections are very limited and mostly ineffective. In addition, they are expensive and time consuming to enforce.
For example, if someone infringes on a copyright the only way to get them to stop is to begin a lawsuit. In the lawsuit you will have to prove that you own the copyright, and why you deserve it ahead of the other person. Even if you have a clearly winning case, the lawsuit will take many months (or even years) and will cost at least tens of thousands of dollars in court and legal fees.
The other option is to apply for a federal copyright registration (depending on what you are trying to protect) as soon as the original content becomes real.
Once you have a registration, if a person or company infringes on your copyright then you can easily shut them down. The registration gives you automatic rights which nobody else can claim. If a businesses refuses to stop their infringing activity, then you will have automatic proof of your ownership of the copyright. If they refuse to stop their activity then you will be entitled to several remedies through the courts. These remedies include beign forced to stop the infringing activity, statutory monetary damages paid to you, and then may even be required to reimburse your legal fees.
Copyrights are extremely valuable for any business. If you are operating an online business they become even more valuable. It’s no secret that copyright theft runs rampant when it comes to online businesses, and many times people will try to claim ownership in that they don’t really have a right to.
Without a registration the problems become magnified ten-fold. With all the different businesses out there, and even more popping up, it can be difficult to determine exactly what date someone started using a copyright. If you don’t have a registration then there’s a good chance you will be forced to share ownership rights with other businesses, or lose your ownership rights altogether.
On the other hand, a federal registration is hard proof that you are the owner of a copyright, and it provides the exact date you started using it. You will never have to worry about losing your ownership rights to any other business, and will easily be able to prevent others from ripping you off.