Copyright impacts almost every business owner, especially the online entrepreneur. If you have a blog, a podcast, a membership area, an e-book, an information product, or any of the variety of other types of content pieces used by online entrepreneurs, you have rights in those works. Those rights are covered by Copyright.
Copyright is a concept most people have some type of grasp on because it is so prevalent. Copyright protections are originally found in the U.S. Constitution. Copyright protects “original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression”. Copyright extends to works that are both published and those that have not been published. Copyright is designed to protect your “original works of authorship”.
The question I get all the time, though, is: Do I need to register my copyright? Before we discuss that, let’s talk a bit about copyright and how to protect it.
Protecting Your Copyright
A long time ago, copyright protection did not exist unless you gave notice to the public of your copyrighted work. It is no longer a specific requirement for copyright protection, but it is often helpful for the author and the consumer of an original work of authorship. Copyright notice (©) does not require permission from the United States Copyright Office because the rights of copyright attach when the work is created. To create proper notice, the indicator must include either the “C” with a circle around it or some other indication of a claim of Copyright, the year of first publication, and the name of the author (e.g., © The Outsourced Associate, LLC 2014, all rights reserved).
It is important that you make indication of Copyright on any material you create for your new business, especially your website, any white papers you create, or any special tools you use to market or with your clients that are proprietary in nature because you developed them as part of your business. This will help to show those who consume your content that it is yours and when you created it.
Why Copyright Registration?
With Copyright, the protection of your work begins when you take an idea out of your head and fix it in a “tangible medium”, not when you file a copyright application with the United States Copyright Office.
Registration of a Copyright gives you protections you do not have by simply providing the notice described above. If you register your copyright, you gain some advantages. Among these are:
- Creating a public record of your copyrighted work
- It is a requirement before you can file a claim for copyright protection in court.
- If you file for copyright protection within five years of publishing your copyrighted work, it may be all you need to prove your copyright protection.
- If you file for copyright protection within three months of publication, you will be awarded statutory damages and attorneys’ fees in court. If not, you will only be able to claim actual damages and lost profits in a court action.
- You can register the copyright with U.S. Customs Services to protect from importation of infringing works.
If you want to know more about intellectual property, check out the IP Guide on Legal to English.
What Can I Register
Some types of creative works are obvious, and you know you should register your works. But, when you are creating content as a part of a marketing strategy or you are creating online books to give away or to sell in your online business, you need to make a business decision about what makes sense to protect. Copyright protection is designed for a number of different categories. Of course, these categories should be viewed quite broadly. The categories have been around for a while, but online business has changed the types of works that are registered under certain categories. You may be surprised at how your creative works fits into the overall scheme of copyright law.
Musical works, including any accompanying words
Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
Pantomimes and choreographic works
Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
Intellectual Property is such an important part of business. As such, it is important to consider the impact it may have on your business. Protection of your intellectual property is one of the most important legal decisions you may make for your business.