“If quotes had a copyright; we’d almost all be screwed!”
A copyright grants legal protection in original works of authorship fixed on any tangible medium of expression. Copyright laws, a form of intellectual property, are meant to protect creativity and artistic work. We often think of copyright protection associated with literary works, songs or movies but any original artistic work is eligible, from your child’s artwork to your signature. Ideas, methods, or concepts are not eligible.
Legal copyright protection provides the owner with numerous exclusive rights including the right to reproduce the work, prepare derivative works based upon the original, distribute copies and even perform the work publicly. A copyright owner can transfer full or partial rights to another, for a limited time, or for the life of the copyright. Depending on the circumstances, copyrights can last over a century.
Copyrights are created automatically the moment the original work is fixed, by the author, to a tangible medium. So, the moment little Johnnie makes his exploding volcano for science class; his sculpture has a copyright. The moment you write the first draft of a screenplay or sketch a charcoal scene out your window; you have a copyright of your artistic expression. There is a caveat, however, to this protection.
If you do not register your copyright, you cannot sue for infringement. Thus, copyright registration is necessary to legally file a claim of infringement. It should be noted, a copyright owner can register a copyright after infringement and then sue, but it is not advised. An owner that registers after infringement is not eligible to collect certain statutory damages and other costs, which otherwise might be available if they registered before the infringement occurred. Further, registration provides notice to the public of your rights and acts as a deterrent against infringement.
Understanding these issues and protecting your artistic work is an important component for any author. We enjoy helping clients with intellectual property issues including copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. Feel free to contact us for assistance.
Scott C. Bucy is an attorney with the Law Office of Robert Good LLC, specializing in intellectual property, business, and probate. Contact him at (541) 482-3763.