Don't let your business become a victim of corporate plagiarism. Whether you've painted a portrait or taken a picture, written a book, or a play, or a musical score, or designed a sculpture, or building, copyrights enable you to keep others from copying your creations. Other items that need copyrights include low-tech arts-and-craft items (such as dolls--Cabbage Patch Kids), and high-tech SOFTWARE, and COMPUTER CHIP DESIGNS.
A copyright protects the "expression" of an idea--literary, artistic, commercial or otherwise. To qualify for a copyright, the idea must be recorded upon a tangible medium. A copyright protects works that are literary, musical, dramatic, choreographic, graphic, audiovisual, architectural and sound recordings. The author of the work has exclusive rights upon recording or documenting it in a tangible medium. The Copyright Act grants copyright owners exclusive rights in five categories: reproduction, adaptation, public distribution, public performance and public display.
Copyright protects only the actual expression, not the underlying idea or facts since concepts, ideas, and thoughts themselves are accessible to all. Copyright protection lasts for the author's lifetime plus 70 years after the author's death. However, if they copyright is a "work made for hire," the copyright last for the shorter of the term of 95 years from date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation.
It is no longer necessary to place a copyright notice on the distributed work to have federal copyright protection. However, it is recommended to use a copyright notice on all works. Otherwise, an infringer may claim an "innocent infringement" defense. The copyright owner may affix the copyright notice to all publicly distributed copies of a work in a manner that provides reasonable notice. A copyright notice consists of three elements: (i) the word "Copyright", "Copr.", or "(C);" (ii) the year of first publication; and (iii) the name of the owner of the copyright, for example:
Copyright 1998 Exxon, Inc.
We suggest including the phrase: "All Rights Reserved."
Registering a copyright has many benefits, such as eligibility for additional damages and attorneys fees in the event of an intentional infringement. Also, registration is required before bringing an infringement lawsuit. If the copyright is registered within three months of the work's first publication, the owner may be entitled to statutory damages and attorneys fees in an infringement suit which are not available to unregistered copyrights. In addition, federal registration is evidence of the validity of the copyright if registered within five years of the first publication. You can download the copyright application forms at the U.S. Copyright Office's web site (http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/).