Why You Should File a Copyright

Why You Should File a Copyright

by Laura Rice, October 2009

Your sculpture has taken all week to complete. You wake up after a long night with a mixed feeling of absolute astonishment that you have finally finished your best work yet and a feeling of extreme excitement to present it.

Now that you are considering where next to direct your energy, you may just want to consider the possibility of getting some protection for your work. In today's world of growing technology and business, it is more important than ever to protect your ideas and works. One step in ensuring your works are protected is to obtain a copyright. It is equally important to first learn what a copyright entails, and what makes a copyright different from other forms of protection that the U.S. government provides.

What is a Copyright?

A copyright is an exclusive right granted to the copyright holder regulating the use of an expression of an idea or other information. The most important thing to know about copyrights is that it regulates and protects only the form in which the idea or information is in, not the actual idea or information itself.

For example, the copyright that is held to protect the Daffy Duck cartoon prohibits unauthorized parties from distributing copies of the Daffy Duck cartoon or creating works which copy or very closely resemble the cartoon in any way. It does not, however, prohibit anyone from drawing or creating works that include cartoon ducks in general, so long as they are adequately different and not considered imitative of the original work.

Copyrights can protect a wide range of forms, including poems, plays, books, literary works, web copy, movies, dances, ballets, musical compositions, audio recordings, sculptures, paintings, drawings, photographs, software, radio and television broadcasts and other forms. Registering your works with the U.S. Copyright Office is basically like a copyright protection insurance policy. Most people don't know that basic copyright protection automatically arises when the author first creates the work and fixes it in a tangible form, without having to do anything or registering a copyright.

So Why Register for Copyright if my Work is Already Protected?

Basic copyright protection may arise automatically when the author first creates the work, but there are many protections and insurance benefits that are not allotted without holding a registered copyright. Registering a copyright establishes a public record of your copyright and ensures that everyone is aware that you have claimed copyright protection for your work. Also, if you hold a copyright for your work, you have the ability to sue any entity or individual who infringes upon your copyright and distributes and/or copies your work and stop the infringement from happening.

The only way an entity or individual can successfully be permitted to use your work is if they prove that they had a pre-existing copyright claim to the work, that you permitted them to use your work, that you didn't actually create the work or that you stole it from them. You also have the right to collect statutory damages and attorney's fee awards for your efforts. Without holding a registered copyright, you may have an automatic copyright to your work, but you hold no legal recourse and have no grounds to pursue any action against a copyright infringement and cannot enforce your rights to your mark.

If you are serious about protecting your business or personal work, it is always best to obtain protection under U.S. copyright laws. Registering a copyright is the best insurance you can attain in protecting your hard work.