BY ALEX J. MONTOYA
Whether installing security cameras or purchasing insurance, you probably do as much as you can to protect your business’s physical assets from loss and theft. However, ensuring your assets are protected should not end with the physical assets of your business; it should extend to your business’s intangible assets.
There are various forms of intangible asset protection your business can employ, but one of the most important is copyright registration.
Before deciding whether copyright registration is right for your business’s intangible assets, it is important to understand what types of “works” are protected under U.S. copyright law. Copyright protection exists in “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression.”
The first requirement is that the work must be original, meaning the work must be independently created and “possess at least some minimal degree of creativity.” The second requirement is that the work must be an “original work of authorship.” Under copyright law, “original works of authorship” include several forms of expression ranging from literary works to sculptures to sound recordings. However, the term does not extend to ideas, titles, slogans, procedures, processes, systems, methods, or discoveries. Finally, the work must be “fixed” to a tangible medium of expression, which means the work is in a sufficiently “permanent or stable manner” from which it can be “perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or indirectly with the aid of a machine or device.”
A copyright in a work means you have the exclusive right to reproduce the work, prepare derivative works based on the work, distribute the work to the public by sale or transfer, and display the work publicly. A copyright in a work automatically vests as soon as your work is affixed to a tangible form of expression. You can take advantage of these exclusive rights for the term of the copyrighted work’s life, which is your life plus seventy years.
Despite automatically receiving these rights in your work at the moment it is fixed to a tangible form of expression, officially registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office is an important step required to access all the rights and protections afforded under copyright law. Registration can be as easy as submitting an application to the U.S. Copyright Office alongside a sample of your work. Officially registering your copyright allows you to enforce exclusive rights through copyright infringement lawsuits. Under federal copyright law, no civil action for infringement of a copyrighted work can be instituted until the copyright is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyright registration also allows for the recovery of statutory damages and attorney’s fees and creates an official record of your work and, therefore, a presumption of ownership. Presumed ownership may help expedite resolution of any potential infringement actions.
To learn more about protecting your business’s intangible assets through copyright registration, contact Alex at [email protected] or call 402.392.1250.