Copyrights protect artistic or creative works, like books, movies, pictures, sculptures, music, and computer programs. Whoever owns the copyright to a work is allowed to distribute, display, reproduce, perform, or use the work to create other work.

Copyright arises upon creation (regardless of date of publication or distribution to the public) and, under current law, lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. Like a trademark, there is no requirement that you register a copyright with the federal government in order to enjoy the legal right to its protection. However, without registering, you do not have the right to sue another for infringing on your copyright.

Some of the advantages of registering a copyright are:

  • Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim.
  • If made before or within five years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.
  • If registration is made within three months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.
  • Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies.

Improper use of a copyrighted work can be litigated and recover of statutory damages (a range of damages set by Congress, which may be as much as $150,000 per work infringed) and/or actual damages may be recovered as damages.

Like a trademark or patent, copyrights can also be transferred or licensed.

Susan can help you register a copyright, enforce your rights in existing copyrights or defend against claims of copyright infringement. Don’t hesitate to call us for a consultation.