+ WHAT IS A COPYRIGHT?
Copyright is a form of protection for original works of authorship once they are “fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” -17 U.S. Code § 102 - Subject matter of copyright: In general
+ CAN I HIRE A COPYRIGHT ATTORNEY BASED IN ANY STATE?
You can absolutely hire an attorney in any state to help you with most federal copyright matters.
Infringement is generally best handled by a local attorney, and may be required based on court rules in that specific jurisdiction.
+ WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRADEMARKS, COPYRIGHTS, AND PATENTS?
A copyright protects original works like songs, movies, books, and sounds.
A trademark is a brand, logo, or slogan that identifies the source of goods and services and distinguishes it from other sources.
A patent protects an invention.
Depending on your unique situation, you may need one or a combination of all three.
+ DO I HAVE ANY PROTECTION FOR MY WORK IF I DO NOT REGISTER MY COPYRIGHT?
Your work becomes protected by the copyright law the moment that you fix it in a tangible medium of expression.
However, copyright protection has numerous benefits, including significant legal advantages that can save you time and money.
(See: WHY SHOULD I REGISTER MY WORK?)
-US Copyright Office
+ WHY SHOULD I REGISTER MY WORK?
In my opinion the cost of registering your work is an insurance policy that lasts a very long time and provides extremely valuable legal protections.
Copyright registration can save you significant time and money if you ever find someone else has infringed on your work; or if you ever find yourself on the receiving end of an infringement lawsuit against you.
(See: WHAT DOES THE PHRASE REGISTER EARLY, REGISTER OFTEN MEAN?)
+ WHAT DOES THE PHRASE REGISTER EARLY, REGISTER OFTEN MEAN?
There is tremendous incentive to register a work as soon as you put into a tangible form.
Two particularly valuable advantages are:
(1) A work that is registered prior to publication or within three months of publication is eligible to be awarded attorneys fees and statutory damages.
This is extremely important because if you are not eligible for statutory damages, your only option is to sue for actual damages. Actual damages can be very difficult and expensive to prove, and sometimes there are not any actual damages at all.
Statutory damages are provided for in the law. All you have to do is successfully prove infringement. Copyright Registration makes doing this much easier.
(2) If you register a copyright before publication; or within five years after first publication of the work, it is considered “prima facie” evidence of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.
“Prima facie” means “on its face,” Therefore, you do not have to prove your copyright is valid. It is presumed valid from the start of the case because you registered your work. This can save you significant time and legal costs in a case of infringement, because the burden shifts to the other party, who must prove that your copyright is not valid.
-17 U.S. Code § 410 - Registration of claim and issuance of certificate
-17 U.S. Code § 504 - Remedies for infringement: Damages and profits
-17 U.S. Code § 505 - Remedies for infringement: Costs and attorney’s fees
+ WHAT CAN I COPYRIGHT?
Copyright protection is available for original works in eight specific categories: (1) literary works;
(2) musical works, including any accompanying words;
(3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
(4) pantomimes and choreographic works;
(5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
(6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
(7) sound recordings; and
(8) architectural works.
-17 U.S. Code § 102 - Subject matter of copyright: In general
+ WHAT IS NOT ELIGIBLE FOR COPYRIGHT PROTECTION?
You cannot copyright an idea that you are thinking about.
You can copyright an idea that you wrote down, sent as a text or email, or recorded a voice memo of.
Copyright protection does not extend to an original work of authorship that is not fixed in “any tangible medium of expression”
+ WHAT IF I ALREADY PUBLISHED A WORK AND WANT TO REGISTER A COPYRIGHT FOR IT?
You can absolutely register your copyright after you have already published it. However, registering within time limits specified by copyright law offers valuable protections that can save you significant time and money.
(See: WHAT DOES THE PHRASE REGISTER EARLY, REGISTER OFTEN MEAN?)
+ DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY TO FILE FOR COPYRIGHT REGISTRATION?
You will have to answer this question yourself. However, only an attorney can provide you with knowledgeable legal counsel on your specific situation.
+ CAN I TRANSFER OR LICENSE A COPYRIGHT?
The copyright owner of a work has the right to authorize others to use any part of the work or the entire thing. Copyright ownership can be transferred “in whole or in part” and structured in such a way that will benefit your unique situation.
Licensing is an exciting opportunity that presents essentially limitless possibilities for the owner of the copyright. A knowledgeable attorney can advise you on what strategies you can take to maximize and protect your valuable intellectual property.
-17 U.S. Code § 201 - Ownership of copyright
+ HOW LONG IS A COPYRIGHT PROTECTED FOR?
As a general rule, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years.”
“For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first.”
-Copyright.gov -17 U.S. Code § 302 - Duration of copyright: Works created on or after January 1, 1978
+ WHAT IS A “POOR MAN’S COPYRIGHT?"
Despite what you may have heard, the practice of sending a copy of your own original work to yourself is not provided for anywhere in the copyright law.
The US Copyright Office has stated that this practice "is not a substitute for registration."
+ WHAT IS A DERIVATIVE WORK?
A derivative work is a work based upon one or more preexisting works. For example a translation, annotated version, abridged or condensed version, or a dramatization.
-17 U.S. Code § 101 - Definitions
+ WHAT IS "FAIR USE"?
Fair Use is a section of the copyright law that protects a user of copyrighted material from infringement, if the use meets specific requirements under the law.
These uses include: “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research.”
The law is quite complex and every case is unique. This is because the copyright law uses several factors to determine if fair use is applicable and each factor has elements of their own.
These factors include:
(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
A knowledgeable attorney can advise you further about whether or not fair use would apply in a specific situation.
-17 U.S. Code § 107 - Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use