Here are the 4 things to remember, from the perspective of a software copyright attorney.
1) Copyright Attaches Easily. It is relatively easy to get basic copyright protection (you know that (c) Copyright Notice on the bottom of text, articles, websites, etc.) This is something to keep in mind, as claiming that a work is protected by copyright is a good first step. While providing the notice is not technically required, it puts people on notice that someone is claiming ownership of the work. So this is something to use often with works you want to protect.
2) There are Essentially 4 Rights. If you own a copyright, you have the exclusive right to:
- Create Derivative Works (creating another work based on the work), and
- Display/Perform Publicly the work.
So this means that the copyright owner has the right to stop someone from reproducing, distributing, creating derivative works and displaying/performing the work publicly, and it will be a violation of federal copyright law if someone were to do so without permission.
3) Lots of Exceptions. This is where it gets more complicated. Copyrights
Also there is a concept called Fair Use, which essentially says that someone can use your copyrighted work without permission in certain situations.
- do not apply or protect ideas, concepts, methods ideas or discoveries, etc.,
- do not apply to common properties in nature (calendars, charts, etc), and
- do expire.
4) Many Benefits to Registration. If there is one thing to remember about copyright law, remember that it is inexpensive to register a copyright and there are lots of benefits from registration. It costs less than $100 to register, and you can do it yourself (no lawyer needed, but of course consult one if you have any questions). One of the often overlooked issues, are the benefits of registration. Without going into a lot of detail, think of it this way: you can get your attorney’s fees paid in a lawsuit and statutory damages (a significant fixed damage amount (could be a few $1,000 to over $100,000)) without having to prove your actual damage or harm. Also, if you wait too long you cannot file the registration after the fact (after you find someone infringing your copyrights) and receive the same benefits.
- As a software copyright attorney/lawyer, I recommend software and IT based companies keep these 4 things in mind about copyrights.