What are the Laws of Copyright?
A copyright is an exclusive legal right to the use and distribution of an original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. It will prevent others from selling, performing, adapting, or reproducing your work without your permission. Work that may be protected under a copyright includes:
Computer software algorithms
Films and other cinematic works
While a copyright exists from the moment of creation, there are many advantages to formally registering your copyright. You will need to register a copyright if, for example, you want to bring a lawsuit for infringement. If a work is registered within five years of its publication, the copyright will be considered sufficient evidence in a court of law. Furthermore, a registered work would be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in the case of successful litigation. You may also choose to register your work so that your copyright is a matter of public record.
A skilled intellectual property lawyer can provide invaluable copyright information and assistance. They can also explain copyright issues in language business owners can understand, helping you navigate the copyright application process. Priori is committed to helping you find the right intellectual property lawyer to help you protect your creative work with a copyright.
Obtaining a Copyright
While the creation of a new work automatically entitles the author to an inherent copyright--even if the work is unpublished---there are still two distinct types of copyright--registered and unregistered copyrights. To fully protect your work, complete a formal copyright registration. You will first need to ensure that your work is wholly original and represents the expression of an idea. Your work will also need to be recorded physically, such as recording a song or printing a short story. A lawyer will then be able to help you complete and file the necessary paperwork and evidence with the United States Copyright Office.
Using a Copyright Notice
The use of a copyright notice, © , is no longer required as a condition of copyright protection. You also do not need advance permission from, or registration with, the U.S. Copyright Office to use the notice.
There are certain exceptions that allow for the use of copyrighted materials in certain circumstances.
Fair Use. The use of copyrighted work is permitted for certain purposes, such as scholarship, non-profit work, commentary, research, parody, news, criticism, or education. However, if you use a copyrighted work for those purposes, you are not necessarily in the clear. Courts look to a variety of factors when determining whether use qualifies as fair use -- such as the amount of the work used, the nature of the work, and the purpose/effect of the use.
Work-for-Hire. A business can own the copyrighted material that contractors and vendors create in a work-for-hire environment. Work-for-hire agreements are common in creative business and freelance employment scenarios.
First Sale Doctrine. An individual may sell, display, or dispose of an individual second-hand copy of a copyrighted work. However, this does not apply to digital works.
- Publishing Agreements. This agreement gives a publisher written permission to publish an author’s work. You can find a template of this agreement in our Legal Document and Form Learning Center.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
The purpose of the DMCA was to resolve some of the unique copyright issues that have arisen with digital intellectual property. Under the DMCA, you may file a copyright complaint with a site that incorporates user-generated content, such as YouTube, if it posts content that infringes on your copyright. For example, if your song appears in a YouTube video without your consent, you can request for the offending video to be removed. The site would be obligated to delete the content if copyright infringement is established. If your site includes any user-generated intellectual property, you may want to include a lawyer-drafted DMCA notice on your site.
Depending on the complexity of your work, the cost of registering a copyright can vary. When you hire a lawyer in the Priori network, a copyright registration typically costs anywhere from $100 to $500. In order to get a better sense of cost for your particular copyright situation, put in a request to schedule a complimentary consultation and receive a free price quote from one of our lawyers.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to acquire a registered copyright?
The length of the copyright registration process can vary depending on the number of applications the United States Copyright Office is reviewing as well as the number of questions associated with your copyright application. Generally, the entire copyright process can take up to 13 months. Working with a skilled intellectual property attorney can make the process much more efficient and prevent any errors in your application.
What if I don't know the best way to create a physical copy of the work I wish to copyright?
An intellectual property attorney will be able to guide you on how to best fix your work in a tangible medium for a successful copyright application. Even if your work is typically not presented through a physical medium, creating a video of a performance, for example, is critical to developing robust protection of your intellectual property through a copyright.
I think someone is already infringing on my work. What are my options?
If you suspect that someone is infringing on your copyright, reach out to an intellectual property lawyer right away. A lawyer will be able to help you resolve the situation quickly and efficiently, either through direct negotiation with the infringing party, through a notice and take-down process, or through litigation. If you have not yet formally registered your material, the situation may be more complex, and a lawyer will best be able to advise you on your copyright rights and how to protect your intellectual property.