Copyright 101 for Designers

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I found a great article on my favorite blog Design Sponge by Amy J. Everhart, a lawyer who specializes in creative industries. She works with entrepreneurs, inventors, and business owners on the topics of copyright, trademark, entertainment, the arts and the internet. I found this article to be very interesting and informative. Below is an excerpt:

Copyright 101 for Designers

By Amy J. Everhart

As a designer, your designs are your lifeblood. Just as a jeweler keeps his jewels in a locked display case, you should safeguard your designs. I don’t mean the physical product embodying your designs, but the intangible right to them: the copyright. Yet maybe because a copyright isn’t something you can see or touch, creators often neglect to safeguard it. An understanding of the copyright basics goes a long way toward protecting why you’re doing this in the first place: the art.

What is a copyright? Skip ahead if I’m getting too “101” on you, but it never hurts to start at the beginning: What is a copyright in the first place, and why should you care if you have one? A copyright protects creative works, including works of visual art, and is actually a bundle of rights. In the case of a work of visual art, a copyright includes the rights to copy, display, sell, perform and make derivative works from your work.

When do I have copyright protection? The minute you create a design and it’s embodied in a tangible medium (meaning no longer just an idea in your head but sketched out on paper or something you can touch), you, as the author, own the copyright to that design. This is true even if the work is not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office and even if you don’t place a copyright symbol (©) on the work. But, as you can see below, doing both is important even if not required for copyright protection, because it will enhance and maximize your protection.

Do I need to register my design with the Copyright Office? You don’t have to register your work with the Copyright Office to acquire copyright protection. So why bother slogging through that frustrating registration process, not to mention spending the money it costs to register? Three reasons: 1) registration within five years of publication gives you a presumption of ownership; 2) registration is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit for copyright infringement; and 3) registration makes available certain infringement remedies that might not be available to you otherwise, including the potential to recover attorneys’ fees and “statutory,” or a specific range of, damages Congress built directly into the Copyright Act. Also, don’t wait until someone has copied your work to register it. You’ll want to file that copyright-infringement lawsuit immediately and not have to wait for the Copyright Office’s stamp of approval on your registration. Also, you generally can’t seek attorneys’ fees or statutory damages unless you register the copyright before the work is copied.

Read the full article: Biz Ladies 09: Copyright 101 for Designers

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