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While there’s no way to truly fit all you need to know about business copyright in one article, you can cover the basics so you have a clear understanding of when to talk to your lawyer. Most businesses create a number of copyrighted documents, but may not realize it.
Your brochure, business card, letterhead, logo, videos, website, and whitepapers all count as copyrighted documents, along with any blogs you publish on your website. If you own a business big enough to warrant radio or TV advertising, then your commercials and any original jingles also carry a copyright. Although a creative work becomes inherently copyrighted upon creation, you should file copyright paperwork to formally document its creation.
Your business can copyright any original “work of authorship” your employees create for it. The law defines those works as architectural, choreographic, graphics, literary, lyrical, motion picture, musical, pantomime, pictorial, sculptural, and sound recordings. You cannot copyright an idea or procedure. This means that the text of your office procedures manual is copyrighted, but the procedures within it are not. You can patent an idea, innovation or improvement to an existing device or procedure though.
Copyright defines and protects a piece of intellectual property. The creator owns the copyright. If multiple people create a work, then they share the copyright jointly and equally. The duration of the initial copyright is 70 years after the death of the author. In cases of joint work, the copyright ends 70 years after the death of the last of those authors. Copyright can diverge from these rules in a few key ways:
- Writers may choose to divide their copyright credits in unequal shares through a legally binding and mutual agreement.
- Creators may license or sell their work.
- The length of protection after death varies by country.
What Rights Do You Have?
Your copyright provides you control over your creation. You get to decide who can display, distribute, perform, or reproduce it. It also gives you legal control over who can create derivative works, which means use a portion of the whole and change it up a bit. The law provides for quoting small portions of the work. For example, if you wrote a book, the law allows a journalist writing a review to quote a short passage from it.
Licensing the use of your copyright bears some resemblance to renting a house. Instead of collecting rent from tenants you get paid royalties, which is a payment based on the airplay, downloads, sales, and web play of the song or derivative work.
In the course of daily business, you and your employees probably create a number of copyrighted documents. Most of these don’t require filing formal copyright paperwork, but there are a few situations when you need to file. That’s when to talk to your lawyer.
Call your attorney if your company begins creating:
- Artwork including graphics, a logo, or photography
- Articles or blogs
- A jingle or music
- A website
Like filing a patent, a copyright requires a fee and form. You’ll also need to provide a copy of the creative work you want to copyright. Your attorney can help you wade through the paperwork to protect your creations.
As a business owner, you devote much of your time to managing your people, property, and various assets. With everything you have to juggle, it can be easy to let intellectual property escape your notice. But now that you know more about the basics, remember to keep your creative assets in mind as your company continues to grow.
Before you can reach out to a copyright lawyer, you need to develop something worth copyrighting. Trust the creative team at C&T Digital Services to help you shape your brand, build your website, and launch your advertising campaign. Reach out to us today to learn more.