Unlike a patent, a copyright provides protection for the tangible expression of a non-functional idea. Specifically, a copyright protects original works of authorship. Copyright protection is available for original works of art such as books, music, plays, pictures, movies, architecture and certain other works. Copyrights provide protection whether the work is published or unpublished and unlike a patent, gives the artist positive rights, the right to work with the intellectual innovation. Specifically, the law grants copyright holders the exclusive right to reproduce the work, prepare alternative embodiments of the work (derivative works), distribute copies and for some categories of art, publicly perform and publicly display. These rights are very valuable because they allow the holder to not only use the work but also prevent others from using the work.
Thanks to the Copyright Term Extension Act, for works created after 1978, in the case of an individual artist, these rights last for the life of the artist plus seventy (70) years. For a business, the duration is ninety-five (95) years from publication or 120 years from creation.
Under the Copyright laws, it is illegal for anyone to violate any of the copyright owners rights (infringe). However, the Copyright laws also provide for some defenses and in some cases exemptions from liability. One common exemption is the doctrine of “fair use” which permits infringement of another’s work in some special circumstances. In other instances, the Copyright laws allow another to use a copyrighted work with the use of a “compulsory license” under which certain uses are permitted after payment of specified royalties and compliance with other requirements.
BENEFITS OF REGISTRATION
While copyright registration is not required for entitlement to the rights mentioned above, registration offers many advantages and is recommended before commercialization of the work. The purpose of allowing works of art such high protection is to reward the artist for investing the labor often necessary to create original art works. Even so, this reward has its price. After a period of time, the work becomes part of the public domain.
Registration of the work of art not only places the public on notice of the existence of the copyright but also is evidence that the copyright is valid. In addition, before a suit can be brought based on the original work of art, it must be registered with the Copyright Office. Finally, early registration of the work may allow the right holder to sue for certain damages provided under the copyright laws and collect the cost involved in bringing such litigation, including attorney’s fees. Therefore, it is recommended that you contact one of our experienced copyright attorney’s to assist you in your registration process.
Before a copyright can be registered, it is necessary to search through the existing library of copyright material to make sure the work is original.
INFRINGEMENT & LITIGATION
Copyright infringement occurs when someone violates your exclusive rights, such as your right to reproduce your work; someone creates a work based upon your original work (such as adaptations for books, theater, film, and TV, as well as translations); someone distributes copies of your work; publicly performs your work; or publicly displays your work. Copyright infringement may also occur where a person or group exceeds their rights as provided for in a contract or license. When a claim of infringement has been made, a copyright holder may sue for:
- a preliminary or permanent injunction to prevent further harm;
- impounding and destruction of the infringing goods; and/or
- monetary damages.
There are exceptions and defenses against a claim of infringement, including a fair use exception, an independent creation defense and a claim that the person claiming infringement does not hold a valid copyright.
If you believe someone has violated your rights or if someone has challenged your copyrights, you should contact one of our litigation attorney’s at your earliest convenience.