Adapted from my article in the March 2010 ASPects newletter:
Copyrights are often some of the most valuable assets of a business. Copyright protection can apply to any expression of an idea or fixed in a tangible medium, such a written
text, photographs, webpages, paintings, sculpture, graphics, music, and software. No matter how big or small the business, protection of copyrightable works is critical to ensure
that ownership and enforceability of the copyright is maintained. In addition, the financial value of copyrightable works cannot be fully realized unless they are properly protected.
Here are 5 basic steps for strengthening your copyright protection:
- Use proper copyright notice: Make sure you use copyright notices (e.g., “© 2010 ABC Association. All rights reserved.”) on any original work of creativity which belongs to your company–web pages, videos, articles, software, blogs, and images.
- Display the notice prominently–in credits, footers, and the like – and often, at least once with each separate piece of work. While copyright notice is not required by law, effective use of notices can significantly enhance your intellectual property rights and deter potential infringers.
- Select a handful of the most representative samples of your work, whether they are software, websites, brochures, etc. and register them with the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyright registration is a very simple and inexpensive process. While registration is not required to obtain copyright protection in a work, it creates an official record that you are the author and it is a prerequisite to filing suit to enforce your rights against infringers. It also helps identify a tangible piece of intellectual property which may have monetary value as part of a business transaction, sale or partnership.
- Monitor for infringement. Set a calendar reminder to perform a few simple web searches every few months to look for key phrases in your work that could be copied by others. Infringements discovered and dealt with early on are far more likely to be resolved without expensive litigation.
- Include copyright language in all contracts. Contracts with employees, contractors, and customers govern most of your intellectual property creation and distribution.