Copyright is a powerful tool that protects creators and their creations from illegal use by others. Copyright law can be applicable to many types of creative assets, works, and intellectual properties, such as novels, films, designs, and music. From the moment you create a work, you are technically the legally protected owner of your own intellectual property. However, retaining a qualified intellectual property lawyer and officially registering your copyright with the US Copyright Office can prevent competitors and impostors from illegally profiting from your hard work in the future.
To give a contemporary example, a new “author” could not create a fantasy series by copy-pasting George R.R. Martin’s popular A Song of Ice and Fire series and then replacing the names and locations with new ones. Any unlicensed party attempting to re-use Martin’s copyrighted work, even with superficial changes, would be in serious violation of copyright law, except in certain limited educational or non-commercial situations.
Copyright law and intellectual property may seem like a simple concept: whoever created a work owns it and may therefore claim copyright. But real-world copyright cases are not always so straightforward. Determining whether a newly unveiled piece of art or media violates a pre-existing copyright can be an extremely subjective matter. Small details regularly have huge implications. As with any other type of law, the court is legally obliged to apply copyright law in a way that is fair and impartial. Due to the nature of copyright disputes, the individual facts and circumstances of each case will often be of great consequence.
To win a copyright case, you must do more than merely stand before a judge and ask them to apply the letter of the law. You must tell your side of the story in a compelling and irrefutable way, and the experienced copyright attorneys at Four Reasons Legal of Denver can help you do so.
Copyright law broadly protects all original works of artistic expression that exist in a fixed, tangible medium. It extends certain rights and protections to the authors or creators of such works.
Copyright law is applicable to creations such as:
Copyright law has been a part of American art and media since the country’s inception. Some form of copyright law has existed in the United States since 1790 and is currently governed by the Copyright Act of 1976. Under this legislation, copyright holders automatically have several important rights:
This is not an exhaustive list of what it means to own intellectual property, but these are the fundamental rights creators have under United States copyright law. When someone infringes upon these rights, the copyright holder can bring legal action against the violator in a court of law.
There are several very important exceptions and limitations to copyright law in the United States:
Copyright law in the United States only applies to tangible works of artistic expression. That means you cannot use copyright law when trying to protect certain elements of your work:
A: The creator of a tangible work of artistic expression automatically has intellectual property rights over that work and can claim copyright. Note that the creator might be an organizational entity rather than a single author, such as in the case of a rock band or animation studio. Intellectual property can also be sold, so an active copyright holder is not always the original creator of a work.
A: The three basic criteria a piece of work must meet for the creator to claim copyright are:
This last one, fixation, can be the most confusing. For example, a scripted, published stage play would be subject to copyright, but an improvised stage routine that changes dynamically from night to night would not. A specific live recording of that improv stage show that the performers wish to package and publish for sale would be subject to copyright, however. Fixation means that the copyrighted material must exist in a tangible and unchanging form, be that a published book, a vinyl record, a painted canvas, or a prototype model of a vehicle design.
A: While you technically have intellectual property rights over your own work as soon as you have created it, it is definitely in the best interests of serious artists and creators to register their work with the United States Copyright Office. This will involve a significant amount of paperwork as well as filing fees. A qualified copyright lawyer, such as those at Four Reasons Legal of Denver, can help walk you through every step of this legal process, which can sometimes prove complex and tedious for laypeople.
A: Copyright protection means that nobody can illegally use your original works of art or design for their own gain (unless they license them from you under a valid contract, usually for a fee). For example, suppose you write a book. If anyone attempts to publish and sell that book while you (or your publisher) hold the copyright for it, they are infringing upon copyright and can face serious penalties.
Four Reasons Legal is proud to serve a broad range of clients in the greater Denver area with all copyright, trademark, and other intellectual property matters. Whether you have a new work you wish to protect or are fighting against illegal use of your intellectual property, we would be happy to hear from you. Our expert legal team offers no-pressure consultations to Coloradans facing legal issues related to their intellectual property.