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Copyright

A copyright is the right to own your creative work. It includes the rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display the work and to prepare derivative works from your original work. Examples of works protected by copyright are songs, plays, poems, paintings, and films. Everhart Law Firm offers the following legal services to assist in protecting creative works:

  • Copyright Registration and Recordation of Assignment: Registration of copyrights and recordation of copyright assignments in the U.S. Copyright Office
  • Use and Protection of Copyrighted Works: Advice on how to protect copyrighted works, including whether the work is copyrightable, when copyright protection attaches, the duration of copyright, transfer and license of copyrights, and termination of copyrights
  • Copyright Infringement: Advice on copyright-infringement issues; drafting of cease-and-desist letters to infringers; responding to cease-and-desist letters alleging copyright infringement, filing or defending copyright lawsuits
  • Copyright Contracts and Licenses: Negotiation and preparation of copyright-related contracts, assignments, work-for-hire agreements, and licenses
  • Fair Use: Advice on whether your use of others’ copyrighted works in your work is fair or requires a license

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a copyright?

Copyright is the exclusive ownership right to an original creative work, or “work of authorship,” and includes the rights to do and authorize reproduction, distribution, performance, and display of the work, and the rights to do and authorize preparation of a derivative work from the original work.

What types of works are protected by copyright?

To be protectable by copyright, a work must be 1) original and 2) fixed in a tangible medium of expression (such as written down or recorded). Works protectable by copyright include literary works, musical works, dramatic works, pantomimes and choreographic works, pictorial, graphic and sculptural works, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, sound recordings, and architectural works.

Is an idea copyrightable?

No. Ideas are not protectable by copyright. Neither are procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles, or discoveries.

Who owns a copyright?

When a work is created, the authors of the work co-own it. In the case of a work made for hire — a work created by an employee for an employer within the scope of the employment relationship or a work created for someone else pursuant to a written work-for-hire agreement — the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is the author. The copyright owner may transfer the work by a signed writing. Transfers of copyrights to works created before 1978 may be terminated by the original author or his or her heirs under certain circumstances.

Does my work have copyright protection if it is not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office?

For a work created in 1978 or later, copyright protection attaches automatically once the work is embodied in a tangible medium (such as written down or recorded). But registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office gives you additional potential remedies for copyright infringement and is required before you can file a lawsuit for infringement. A work created before 1978 may or may not be protected by copyright, depending on a number of factors, such as when the work was created, whether and when the work was published, whether the work was registered and registration was renewed, and whether the work included a copyright notice.

Why should I register my work with the U.S. Copyright Office

Although works created in or after 1978 automatically have copyright protection if they are fixed in a tangible medium of expression, registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office gives you additional protections and is required in some instances. Additional protections afforded by registration include the potential to recover attorney fees and statutory damages in a copyright-infringement lawsuit and a presumption of ownership if you register within five years of publication. Also, you must register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office before you can file a lawsuit for copyright infringement.

What is the significance of using the symbol ©?

The use of the © symbol or notice of copyright is not required on works created in or after 1978 for copyright protection to attach. But the use of the © symbol, or the word “Copyright,” the year of first publication of the work, and the name of the copyright owner affixed to copies of the work may provide additional protection. Such notice notifies others that you claim rights to the work and may preclude a defendant in a copyright-infringement lawsuit from successfully claiming innocent infringement.

Why should I register my work with the U.S. Copyright Office

The U.S. Copyright Office registration fees are listed on the Copyright Office website.

How is a copyright different from a trademark and a patent?

A copyright protects a creative work. A trademark is a word, symbol, or phrase that identifies the source of a product or service. A patent protects an invention or a discovery.