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Fort Worth Business Law Attorney Discusses Copyrights for Business Owners

Fort Worth intellectual property attorney, Richard “Ric” Armstrong, talks about what business owners should know about copyrights.

When you own and operate a business, much of what you create and produce will legally be protected by copyright. By the same token, copyright protects much of what other people and businesses create and produce. Thus, copyright protects your own intellectual property, but you should also avoid infringing on others’ rights.

What Is Copyright?

In basic terms, copyright is exactly how it sounds: It is the right to copy. The owner of copyrighted material has the legal right to copy, exploit and distribute that material at will. Others can’t reproduce a work without permission from the copyright owner—and in a few cases, if there is a specific statutory exemption.

The original copyright belongs to whomever created the work, but copyrights can also be bought, sold, licensed, shared and otherwise transferred.

What Does Copyright Cover?

Copyright can cover quite a broad spectrum of created material. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright can legally protect “original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.” you as a business owner, this description may cover any of the following for your company:

• Written materials you produce and distribute, whether for marketing or for their own sake
• Music or videos you create, or commission as “works for hire,” (e.g., for advertising purposes)
• Any products you create for sale that meet these descriptions (e.g., books, music, art, software, etc.)
• Any proprietary software or architecture you design

Incidentally, brand names, logos, inventions and trade secrets are not covered by copyright. However, these intellectual properties may be protected through other means, such as trademarks, patents, contractual agreements, or nondisclosure agreements.

However, it is crucial to note that, if an employee or contractor creates something while at work, the employee, not the employer, may own the copyright. That’s true, even if it’s at the company’s direction, on company time, and with company resources. Therefore, if you want ownership of the content, it’s important to address this beforehand (such as in employment contracts or a contract for a particular project).

Copyright Is Not Permanent

Unlike trademarks, which may last indefinitely, copyrights can expire—usually 70 years after the death of the creator—at which point they enter the public domain.

Do I Have to Register My Copyright?

Technically, you do not.

By law, any created work meeting the definition is considered legally copyrighted the moment the creator has completed it. However, unregistered copyrights can be very difficult to defend in court because you have no proof that you are the creator of the work or the owner of the copyright. Additionally, you can’t sue for federal violation of copyright until after you’ve received the registration.

The best way to protect your rights is to register all proprietary or original works with the Copyright Office.

Since copyright covers so many different things, you should consult a Fort Worth intellectual property attorney to help you determine what materials within your business may be protected by copyright (or may be subject to another’s copyright). For advice, or for legal representation in a copyright infringement case, call Armstrong The Law Firm, P.C., at 972-424-L-A-W-S (5297).

 

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Armstrong The Law Firm, P.C.
Plano Location
1400 Gables Ct #103
Plano, TX 75075

Fort Worth Location (By Appointment Only)
5601 Bridge Street, Ste. 300
Ft. Worth, Texas 76112

Phone: (972) 424-5297