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As a small business, startup company, or entrepreneur, there are key intellectual property rights that you should know. The four forms of intellectual property are:

Copyright protection is a type of IP protection available for certain types of original works. It allows authors, artists, and other creators of artistic works to create without fear of someone else copying and profiting from their work. This article focuses on:

  • What is a copyright?
  • What can get a copyright?
  • The rights of a copyright owner
  • Copyright protection for your work
  • Copyright provisions for fair use
  • The requirements for copyright protection

What Is a Copyright?

Copyright is a type of intellectual property protection that grants exclusive rights to owners of original works of authorship and protects the "form of material expression." This means that facts, ideas, concepts, or techniques of a particular work are not protected.

What Can Get Copyrighted?

Copyright protection is only available for creative works available in a tangible form. This is also called a fixed work. Examples of fixed creative works in tangible form are a story written on paper or a painting on canvas. The categories of protected works under copyright law include:

  • Software
  • Paintings
  • Literary works
  • Photographs
  • Movies
  • Sound recordings
  • Musical works
  • Television broadcasts

What Are the Rights of a Copyright Owner?

A copyright owner has certain exclusive rights over their work. The copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce the work, sell the work, and perform or display the work publicly. The copyright owner also has the exclusive right to create derivative works. Derivative works are new works based on the original copyrighted work.

If the copyright owner would like to give these rights to another person, they can transfer ownership or give a person a license to use the work. If the copyright owner transfers their rights, they cease to be the copyright owner. But if the copyright owner gives someone a license, then they are still the owner of the copyright and gives certain rights to use the work

What Are Copyright Provisions for Fair Use?

Copyright law usually includes provisions for “fair use" in the United States. These provisions allow for limited use of copyrighted works without permission for purposes such as commentary, news reporting, education, criticism, parody, and research. The skits you see on "Saturday Night Live" or clips during the news are examples of fair use.

What Are the Requirements for Copyright Protection?

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grants patent protection and trademark registrations. The U.S. Copyright Office handles copyright registration.

The main requirement to receive copyright protection is that the creative work is an original work and fixed in a tangible form. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not a requirement to receive copyright protection. But there are benefits to registering a copyright. For example, registration of a copyright provides a public record of the copyright claim in the work. Registration is also required before you can take legal action and file a copyright infringement lawsuit.

Original works created after March 1989 are not required to include a copyright notice to have copyright protection. But there are benefits to having a copyright notice on your work. The notice of copyright alerts the public to the fact that the work is under copyright protection. It also identifies the year the work was first published and the copyright owner. In addition, including a copyright notice is free and does not require formal steps – you just need to include the notice in your work.

The duration of copyright protection depends on many factors such as:

  • Type of work
  • Country origin of the work
  • Date of creation
  • Date of publication

In the United States, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years after their death. If anonymous authors or corporations create the work, the protection lasts 95 years after publication or 120 years after it was created, whichever expires first. You should learn about international copyrights if you intend for your work to be protected globally.

Get Legal Advice from an IP Attorney

There are so many things for a small business owner to take into consideration to protect intellectual property. The patent process, protecting your company name, registering trademarks, and copyright protection are important to your success.

An intellectual property law attorney can help you navigate laws to protect your intellectual property. These experienced lawyers can handle the patent application process, copyright laws, and suing those who infringe on your other IP rights.

Learn About Copyrights

Copyrights Articles

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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