Copyrights protect artistic and creative works – basically any type of creative content. If the content is the main feature of your creative idea, then copyright is probably your best bet for intellectual property (IP) protection. It also protects computer code. Sometimes, it can be used to protect a logo – but see below for when that’s possible.
BUT HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOUR COPYRIGHTS?
Copyright is an inherent right, meaning that the creator of a work (or his/her employer, if performed under contract) automatically owns the copyright in a creative work.
You need to register your copyright in the US in order to be able to enforce it. Copyright is registered with the US Copyright Office – you can find some of the basic information that you need to register copyright here.
Registering for copyright enables you to protect your ideas. For example, if someone uses your copyrighted idea without permission from you, you can seek damages. You can also license your copyrighted works in exchange for payment.
You also can protect “derivative works” which are ideas that are derived from yours.
You need to protect your ideas as otherwise you may fall victim to Internet mashup culture, in which others take your ideas – which you worked really hard to develop – and mix them into a new creation, without your permission or control. Even if you file for copyright, you can still give others the rights to use your ideas – but according to your requirements, not as a free for all.
For example, below the image at the start of this post, I added a photo credit to the author of the work (Chinnapong), plus the place that I downloaded it from (Shutterstock) with a link. I have a license from Shutterstock which dictates when, where and how I can use the image. For example, I can use it on my website but not for t-shirts. I paid Shutterstock, which then pays the creator of the image.
Without copyright protection, I could take this image and use it without payment – or give credit! Clearly stealing someone else’s work is unethical, but copyright laws meant that it is also illegal.
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