What is a copyright?
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.
Copyrights have many advantages over other types of IP protection. For one, it is quite inexpensive – the registration fees at the US Copyright Office (if you do it yourself) are only $55. It is also a very fast procedure, as you will receive a filing receipt immediately if you file electronically. Finally, copyrights do not involve any type of examination procedure; once you receive the filing receipt, then you have automatically registered your copyright.
WHEN COPYRIGHT CAN HELP YOU – AND WHEN IT CAN’T
Copyrights can be used to protect specific types of ideas. Some ideas that copyright can be used to protect:
- All printed material – including books, manuals, brochures, magazine articles
- Contents of websites
- Images (whether physical or digital)
- Video – including the components of videos (visual information, story, spoken words, music)
- Music – including lyrics, melody, sound recordings, written musical score
- Computer code (but not the underlying idea or design – see below)
Some ideas that copyright can’t be used to protect:
- Cannot be used to protect names or slogans – those must be protected with a trademark.
- Cannot be used to protect broad software ideas – those must be protected with a patent.
Logos can go both ways – sometimes they can be protected with copyright, sometimes with a trademark – and sometimes with both. Check with a copyright or trademark professional for any specific logos that you want to protect.
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