Copyright protects authors of original works of art. Copyright protection give the owner exclusive rights to the publication and distribution of the work.  To be protectable, a work must be original, and a tangible expression.  A work could be a writing, music, painting, drawing, sculpture, photograph, multimedia, software, film, television or radio broadcast, architecture, or mroe.  An “idea” is not protectable by copyright.  Copyright protection is mentioned in the U.S. constitution.

Copyright protection actually begins the moment and original work is complete and fixed in tangible form; this basic protection is automatic – no filing is required.

“Fair Use” allows someone to use a portion of a copyrighted work, without permission, for certain purposes.  The amount of use permitted depends on the type of use and nature of the work.  As an example, a review of a movie can show a brief clip from the movie.

Copyright tips:

  • Using proper copyright notice helps fend of copiers and enhance your protection in the event of an infringement.  Proper notice (in the U.S.) looks like this:
    • for example:
      • © Copyright 2009. Erik M. Pelton & Associates, PLLC.
  • Set up a free Google alert if you have copyrighted text. Pick a random sentence or phrase from inside our constant and set an alert for the phrase in “quotation” marks. If anyone is copying that phrase completely, which may be an infringement issue, you will be mailed an alert.
  • Register your copyright.  Copyright registration is not mandatory, but is a requirement before suing any infringers.  Given that it is relatively simple and affordable (filing fees vary, but are approximately $40) registration is a good way to help scare off any potential or new infringers – sending a registered cease and desist letter with a copy of an official Library of Congress registration certificate is generally more effective than making a claim without a registration.  Furthermore, a registration is required in order to bring a case in federal court for copyright infringement. For more about registration, see the Library of Congress copyright office website at:
  • Common items on which to assert copyright protection: webpages, advertisements, brochures, workbooks, presentation slides,  white papers, newsletters, etc.

Proper copyright notice, along with copyright registration for most things, is fairly straightforward and not complicated.  Registering your copyright enhances the value of asset, and helps formalize its transition to something tangible. which has far greater value that can be transfered, sold, or licenses.  A registration for copyright is valuable because it provides inferences in the event  of any dispute.

Lesson: Copyright registration is a simple way to, in the words of consultant Alan Weiss, “convert intellectual capital (intangible) into intellectual property (tangible).” (  The more tangible intellectual property your company creates and owns, the more you can profit from it (licensing, sales, etc.)

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