Since September 17, 1787, the United States government has protected, by statute, the exclusive right of authors and inventors to their work. A bundle of exclusive rights is automatically given to the author, broadly defined, to protect their work once it is “fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” And while copyright protection is automatic, in order to even make a copyright claim, your work needs to first be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. This is a process that could take many months, or even years if not handled properly. An experienced copyright lawyer, such as the attorneys at Adair Myers Stevens Yagi, can not only help register your work, but prove invaluable when your work is used without authorization.
Do I need a Copyright Lawyer?
Before hiring copyright lawyers, it helps to know how copyrights work. A copyright is just one of many federal legal protections available for intellectual property in the United States. A copyright protects the expression of an idea but not the idea itself. A copyright gives the creator or author of an original work the right to control how it is used via reproduction, distribution, and performance or adaptation from the moment it is created. Copyrights can apply to a wide array of works, including:
- Musical works (both songs as a whole and lyrics)
- Dramatic works such as scripts and screenplays
- Literary works such as books, software, and source code
- Architectural designs such as plans, drawings, and buildings
- Photographs, fine art, and graphic art
Clearly, copyrights can be very valuable, but another reason to seek counsel from an IP attorney would be to determine if your work meets the requirement for copyright protection before you begin the process alone. Failing to meet the requirements could mean spending more time and more money than is necessary to acquire the copyright.
Requirements for Copyright Qualification
The Copyright Act of 1976 states that a work is qualified for copyright protection if it meets two requirements:
Originality: Originality does not mean the work must be completely original. Compilations of other works can also be protected by copyright, for instance. Originality simply means the work must meet a low level of creativity to have been independently created.
Fixation: Fixation concerns how the work is bound together. Section 102 of the Copyright Act states, “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” This includes tangible media such as:
- Ink and paper
- Paint and canvas
- Hard drives
- Audio and video tap
A copyright lawyer can help you determine if your work meets the qualifications of fixation and originality. If so, copyright grants you exclusive rights over your work.
A copyright gives the creator of the work several bundled exclusive rights for a specified duration. Most, but not all works, are granted these exclusive rights by copyright:
- Reproduction Right
- Right to Create Derivative Works
- Distribution Right
- Public Performance Right
- Right to Public Display
As the owner, the law also allows you to license theses rights to others individually, meaning that you can retain certain rights while transferring or licensing other rights. If you would like to license your work, having an attorney draft a proper licensing agreement will reduce the likelihood of disputes emerging.
The duration of copyright, however, is not so simple to determine. It depends on the type of work created, when it was created, and by whom. An IP lawyer will best be able to help you determine the duration of your copyright, based on the nuances of the work, who created it, and other details outlined in U.S. copyright law. Additionally, if you are seeking to end infringement of your work, speaking with an experienced copyright lawyer would be a sound choice as your first step to enforcing your rights.
Protecting your work from copyright infringement is more difficult now than ever before. The internet has made it easy for competitors to steal others’ work, claim it as their own, or simply engage in blatant piracy. So, while it is not required for your work to be registered to be protected, registration does provide litigation benefits when your work has been stolen or used without your permission.
After Infringement: Hire a Lawyer for Copyright Claim
As any IP attorney will tell you, registering your work allows you to enforce its protection against infringement through litigation. You cannot bring a copyright claim without first registering your work. After it is registered, a public record of ownership is created; this public record is extremely valuable should you need an attorney pursue legal action for infringement.
Occasionally, litigation is unavoidable. You may have already incurred significant financial losses and the infringement may be ongoing. In these instances, there are remedies available for direct infringement and indirect infringement which include injunctions.
Other available remedies include monetary damages via statutory damages or resulting from the actual losses incurred by the copyright owner. Speaking with one of the lawyers at Adair Myers Stevenson Yagi will clear up any questions you have about the details needed to move forward with a copyright claim.
Copyright Attorney Houston
When you’ve invested time, money, and energy into creating a unique piece of work, it is understandable you want to protect it from being used and profited off of by others. The experienced business lawyers at Adair Myers Stevens Yagi can review your work, answer your questions and assist you with copyright registration. Our attorneys are also seasoned litigators that can work aggressively to protect your rights when others are using your work illegally and profiting from it.
The IP Lawyers at Adair Myers Stevenson Yagi help individuals and companies draft and file copyright registrations with the U.S. Copyright Office routinely and know how to ensure protection in the event of copyright infringement. We can also help when another individual or business is using your copyrighted work without your permission.
With more than 40 years of legal experience in Houston, Texas, our attorneys can provide peace of mind that your creative works are being safeguarded. Contact us today to see how our IP Lawyers can help protect your intellectual property.