Protecting Intellectual Property Through Copyright
Not all forms of theft are physical. For many businesses, their intellectual property is their livelihood. You rely on your original creations, your reputation, and your brand to succeed. When someone appropriates your material without license or authorization, they are not only stealing money from the coffers of your business; they are doing potential damage to your reputation and brand. There are several forms of intellectual property protection, including copyright, trademarks, and patents. Read on for a brief look at protecting your intellectual property through copyright law, and call an experienced Houston business law attorney for help with a Texas business law matter.
What Does Copyright Protection Cover?
Copyright protection is specifically geared toward original works of authorship. A copyright gives the creator of an original work–be it a book, a song, a film, etc.–the exclusive right to print, publish, perform, display, or record that work. In order to utilize a protected work, an exhibitor must purchase a license from the copyright owner or purchase the intellectual property rights in their entirety.
Copyright protection extends to all original works of literary, dramatic, musical, and other artistic authorship. Copyright protects works such as novels, short stories, movies, poetry, songs, architecture, and even computer software. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation–those rights are either unprotected or protected by other intellectual property rights. Patents protect inventions, ideas, and discoveries, while trademarks protect words, phrases, symbols or designs (e.g., brand logos).
When Does Copyright Protection Kick In?
There is a common misconception that original works must be registered with the federal government in order to be protected. In fact, as soon as an original work is created and fixed in a tangible form (including recorded in an audio medium or entered on a computer), it has copyright protection. Registering a copyright is still important, however, for the sake of protecting your legal rights.
When someone uses your copyrighted material without your permission–for example, if someone copies your book and sells it as their own, performs your song without a license, or displays your film without permission–you have the right to sue. To prevail in your lawsuit, however, you will need to demonstrate both that your work is original enough to merit copyright protection (for example, that your work is not derivative of something in the public domain or already copyrighted by someone else) and that you were the creator of that copyrighted work.
If you write a poem and never publish it, you still own the copyright to that poem, but if someone gets their hands on it and sells it as their own, you might have a difficult time proving that you wrote the poem before they did. Rather than tracking down your original notebook and trying to prove the age of your handwriting, registering your work when you create it ensures that you have strong evidence of your ownership already lined up. Before you bring an infringement lawsuit, you will need to first register your work at that point anyway. You may also be eligible for additional statutory damages and attorneys’ fees upon infringement if you register a work before infringement or within three months of publication.
If you need legal assistance with a Texas business law matter, contact the professional and dedicated Texas business law attorney Leigh Meineke at the Houston offices of Stephens | Domnitz | Meineke PLLC by calling 832-706-0244.