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The 5 W's of Intellectual Property: Copyrights

June 2, 2017


What (is a copyright)?


A copyright is a type of intellectual property that protects original works of authorship. The category of "original works of authorship" is quite broad, and it includes artistic, literary, and musical works such as sculptures, poetry, architecture, movies, songs, and even software.


Be aware, though, that copyright only protects works that have been fixed in a "tangible medium of expression." Facts, systems, methods, and ideas alone are not copyrightable. They must first be expressed, documented, recorded, or otherwise brought to fruition.


A work is under copyright the moment it is created. This means that the originator of the work is granted the exclusive right to make copies, license, and otherwise exploit his creation. A copyrighted work is protected for the entire lifetime the creator, and for 70 years after his death.

Who (do copyrights protect)?


In one word: creators. Copyrights protect anyone who has expressed their works in a tangible way. There are many specific types of people who benefit from copyrights - a few of these types of people include:


writers, poets, lyricists, composers, architects, painters, website content creators, software developers, sculptors, cartoonists, and recording artists.


Why (should I register my work)?


Even though a copyright exists the moment a work is created and registration is not a requirement, there are many reasons why registering your work is advisable. One reason is that registration creates an official record that the registrant is the original creator of the registered work. These records are accessible to the public, so they also put everyone on notice that a copyright exists in your work.


Additionally, "timely registration" makes your life a whole lot easier should you ever need to sue for infringement. Timely registration creates a presumption that your copyright is valid, and it allows you to recover statutory damages whether or not you can show that you have been harmed by the infringement. Moreover, registration also makes it possible for you to recover the fees you spend on your attorneys in bringing the lawsuit against your infringer.

Where (and how* should I register)?


You will need to register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office. The easiest way is to file online at www.copyright.gov. You will need to fill out a simple form and deposit at least one sample of your work. The U.S. Copyright Office currently charges $35 for the most simple registration of a single work. Discounts are available if you are filing a group of related works in a single form.

When (should I register)?


If you want the benefits of registering your work, then you must "timely" register. This means you must register your work before infringement occurs and at the latest within three months of the date your work is published.


The clock is ticking, so get moving and good luck going forward!




About the Author: 


David "Tyler" Bennett is a business and intellectual property attorney, and he is a partner at Verhagen | Bennett LLP.  To learn more about David, please click here.


For questions or comments about this post, please email David directly at: David@VerhagenBennett.com


To make suggestions about future posts, please email: Info@VerhagenBennett.com



© 2017 David T. Bennett — This article is for general information only. The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.

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