Copyright Law: Protecting your Intellectual Property Investment

06th January 2011
By Aaron Kelly in Copyright & Trademark
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Intellectual Property / Copyright Law

In a nutshell, intellectual property law protects the work product of one's imagination or mind. However, this is not all it does. Not only does intellectual property cover copyright, trademark, and patents, but it also covers publicity and privacy rights, as well as trade secrets. One thing that is for sure is that intellectual property is one of the most important areas of the law today. At the very least, a cursory knowledge of the law in this area can be a real asset and can actually help to prevent a lot of potential problems that can arise. Unfortunately, learning all of the intricacies of intellectual property law can be quite difficult.

Finding a lawyer in Scottsdale, Arizona, who really knows very much about intellectual property can be difficult. Fortunately, there are those that can help you resolve your intellectualproperty and copyright issues issues. The three main branches of intellectual propertyare copyrights, trademarks, and patents. But there are also related areas such as trade secrets, publicity rights,and privacy rights. This article will focus on the cornerstone of intellectual property, copyright laws.


Copyright Laws

Many would think that intellectual property and copyrights are a fairly new phenomenon. However, copyrights have been around for many centuries, and are even written into the U.S. Constitution.

When the United States Constitution was written in 1787, the framers took special care to include a copyright clause (Article I, Section 8) stating that "The Congress shall have Power ... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited times to Authors ... the exclusive Right to their ... writings." The primary purpose of copyright, then, is not to enrich authors; rather, it is to promote the progress of science and the useful arts-that is, human knowledge. - - Stephen Fishman "The Copyright Handbook"

To pursue this goal, copyright encourages authors in their creative efforts by giving them a mini-monopoly over their works-termed a copyright. We say mini-monopoly, because the original copyright act only limited the term of a copyright to 14 years. This, as we now know, can be extended for many many years, even after the death of the creator.


How can I copyright my work?

At its core, copyright is simple, as a copyright automatically comes into existence the moment an author fixes her words in some tangible form-for instance, the moment a book or article is typed, handwritten or dictated. No further action need be taken. However, it is wise to place a valid copyright notice on all published works and to register these works in the U.S. Copyright Office shortly after publication. You do not even have to place a copyright symbol anymore.

Although the above is not required, it is good practice to include a copyright notice on your work as well as register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office. Doing so makes your copyright a matter of public record and provides a number of important advantages if it is ever necessary to go to court to enforce it. To register a work you must fill out a registration form and deposit copies of your work with the Copyright Office. An experienced copyright lawyer can help you through this process.

One of the other benefits of registering a copyright is that when a copyright owner successfully sues an infringer they are usually entitled to receive the amount of their losses caused by the infringement (for example, lost sales) plus any profits the infringer (and his publisher, if there is one) earned.

Copyright Infringment

Infringement of written works usually involves the unauthorized exercise of a copyright owner's exclusive rights to reproduce the work and prepare derivative works based on it. This means the unauthorized copying of the work. So what happens when someone infringes on your valid copyright? The truth is not always so obvious. The fact that another person's work is similar to your own does not necessarily mean that he has committed copyright infringement. Infringement occurs only if all three requirements discussed below are present:

ownership of a work protected by a valid copyright
actual copying of the work by the alleged infringer; and
improper use of the work's protected expression by the alleged infringer.

If you have a copyright registered and approved, and can can prove that someone has infringed on your work you have several remedies available, including: you will be entitled to injunctive relief, compensatory damages, statutory damages, costs, and attorney's fees. An injunction is simply a court order that prevents the infringing party from further infringement. Damages are calculated by the fair market value of the goods that were sold or misused. Also, you may be able to recover the profits from the entity that has infringed upon your copyright.

Copyright Lawyers in Scottsdale, Arizona

Copyrights can be complicated, which is why you should consult with an experienced copyrights and intellectual property lawyer. Contact Aaron Kelly of The Kelly Law Firm, L.L.C. today to set up a consultation.
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