Who: Anyone who owns the rights to a copyrightable work. Whether by authorship, through assignment, or through inheritance – you are welcome to protect what is rightfully yours and guard yourself against infringement.
What: You can copyright original works which are fixed in a tangible medium of expression – this can take the form of words, code, music, paintings, computer programs, photographs, graphic designs, movies, books, songs, lyrics, choreography… maybe even Frank’s top secret BBQ sauce recipe. The key words are “original” and “fixed”, though, so this would exclude ideas, procedures, systems, “trite” content, content in the public domain, content authored by the US government, and anything covered by the doctrine of fair use.
Why: You mean, why should you protect the fruits of your labor? Because America. Because if you copyright your work, this means that if someone infringes on your copyright, you may be entitled to statutory damages and profits that are attributable to the infringement. Having a copyright registration creates notice, and notice makes it difficult for anyone who infringes on your work to argue that they did so unknowingly. Importantly, this notice and registration entitles you as the copyright owner to seek statutory damages that are contained in the United States Copyright Code. The US Copyright Code provides that instances of infringement can entitle the copyright owner to between $750 to $30,000 per infringement, and $150,000+ if such infringement is proven to be willful. Further, having a registered copyright allows you as the creator to seek injunctive relief, which means that an infringer will be restrained, by court order, from future copying of the work. In any case, you must have a copyright registration to bring suit for copyright infringement. Consider a copyright registration as a worthwhile investment.
When: As an author, a copyright registration lasts for your lifetime plus 70 years. To be entitled to statutory damages and attorney’s fees, you should copyright your work within three months of the first publication. However, to obtain the same level of protection for unpublished works, you should register your work before the end of the first month after learning that your work was infringed. For prima facie evidence that a copyright is valid, you should copyright your work before the end of five years after first publication.
Where: The United States Copyright Office, Library of Congress, accessible at copyright.gov. Party over here!
RSVP: We’d love to hear from you and discuss how to protect your business’ assets through the valuable protections that copyright offers.