Copyright Basics

What Is a Copyright?

A copyright is given to any expression of an idea, fixed in a tangible medium, as long as it contains a modicum of creativity.  In simpler terms, copyright extends to any tangible creation that required the slightest of human discretionary choice to create.  A scribble on a piece of paper can be protected by copyright law.

What Rights Do Copyrights Give You?

There are 6 rights associated with copyright protection:

(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;

(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;

(3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;

(4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;

(5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and

(6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

A copyright generally lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years, meaning you can pass it down for future generations to profit from.

Benefits of Copyright Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office

A copyright is created when the work itself is created.  That means you own a copyright even if you do not register the work.  However, there are a host of essential benefits for registering your copyrights, including the following:

- Provides Notice:  Registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office puts others on notice that you are the owner of the copyright.  You can always license, or completely sell one or all of the 6 rights associated with a copyright above.  Providing notice means opening up the opportunity for monetizing your copyright, especially when others want to perform or display your work, or make derivative works based on yours.

- Registration is required to sue for infringement:  In order to sue for copyright infringement in federal court, you have to have your copyright registered.  Therefore, registration is essential to actually enforcing your rights.

- Five year presumption:  Registering a copyright within 5 years of publishing the work give you the presumption in court that the facts in the registration are all true.  This makes it much easier to win a case, because the defendant then has the burden of proving that they did not infringe on your copyright.  The law is on your side, and legal fees are greatly reduced. 

Conclusion

Registering a copyright is an essential process for any person who is looking to make a living off their creativity.  You automatically get basic copyright protection when you create the work, but registering it protects it at a much more substantial level because of the enforcement power, and it opens to the door to all types of new opportunities for growth and monetization.

Need help registering your copyrights?  Call Bend Law Group, P.C. at 650-271-9395.