What is copyright exactly? It is the legal right to copy, or reproduce, a “work of authorship”, such as: a painting, drawing, song, or photograph. Who is the owner of the copyright? The author is the owner, and no one else, unless the author transfers their rights.
Why is copyright so damn important? Because your copyright is an asset that can create significant income and it is part of your brand as an artist.
Just about any business owner, no matter what industry she is in, has copyrightable material worth protecting.
However, how can you tell what is eligible for copyright protection? Here are some key pointers.
- A copyrightable work must be “original,” and so the creator of the work must have created the work herself. There must be some “minimal degree of creativity.” Works that are made of only preexisting works, such as a collage made from magazine clippings, might only be eligible for protection as a collection because the individual elements of that work might not have been created by the person claiming copyright ownership.
- Copyrightable work must also be a “work of authorship.” For a single person composing a song or writing a computer program, it is relatively easy to determine the author. In the case of a collaborative effort, with multiple sources of contribution, such as a collective work, determining an author becomes trickier. For instance, a work has joint authors when more than one person has contributed to a work, and they all intended that their individual contributions are interdependent or inseparable vis-à-vis the whole work.
- Copyrightable work must be “fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” There must be some fixed, physical embodiment of the work. As a rough guideline: if you can make a copy of it, view it, hear it, or touch it, the work is fixed.
Copyright protection will not extend to ideas, or intangible concepts. For instance, if someone discovers a better method of tying one’s shoes, the method will not be copyrightable. The typed explanation of this method, however, may be. This is a topic that delves into the realm of patent law, and should be discussed with a patent attorney. Blank forms are usually not copyrightable either.
This description of copyrightable work is brief, and the law of copyright is broad. If you have any questions about protecting your intellectual property, please contact an attorney.
Veronique Kherian focuses her practice on trademark and copyright issues.
You may contact Ms. Kherian at:
- info [at] kherianlaw.com
- 415-766-9366. Kherian Law’s