Intellectual property is often one of the most valuable assets a business or individual has. It can give owners a competitive edge or distinguish them from their competitors. It can be a source of revenue through licensing agreements. Thus, whatever form this property comes in, it can be crucial to protect it from misuse.
One way of protecting intellectual property is to copyright it.
Types of work that you can copyright
Copyrights are practical tools that identify the author of a creative work. They also restrict others from claiming ownership or misusing material. Some of the most common types of materials people copyright include:
- Architectural plans
- Sculptural work
- Some social media content, including original tweets
A copyright can protect these works as soon as the creator performs, records or writes them down.
It is crucial to note here that generally, the person who created the work will be the owner, but this is not always the case. An employer may own materials created by an employee or contractor, and the creator may transfer ownership to someone else.
That said, if you are the owner of copyrighted work, you have exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute the material. However, copyrights do not protect every creation or form of intellectual property.
What you cannot copyright
There are numerous things that you cannot copyright. These include:
- Facts and information
- Fashion designs
- Domain names
- Federal government documents
Although you cannot copyright these materials, many of them can still be considered intellectual property that you may be able to protect with a patent, trademark or as a trade secret.
In other words, a copyright is not the only option parties have to protect their works and creations. However, if you do have material eligible for copyright, you would be wise to understand your rights as the owner and what happens if someone violates those rights.
What do copyright violations look like?
Copyright infringement occurs when someone uses your material without permission or crediting you as the author. Depending on the work, it could mean publishing your work in a magazine without permission, attributing your material to someone else or using music files in a video without authorization.
You can prevent infringement with tools like using the © symbol on copyrighted materials and registering your copyright. Doing so makes it easy for others to know they should not use, reproduce or distribute work without permission.
It can also be wise to include copyright disclaimers on printed work or websites, and putting watermarks on visual images can prevent unauthorized reproduction.
However, despite these efforts, infringement can still occur. Monitoring use can allow parties to identify and stop violations as quickly as possible.
That said, it can be a considerable challenge to monitor infringement. While some cases can be easy to spot, like someone using lyrics you wrote in a song that you hear on the radio without you knowing, not all infringement claims are obvious. This is especially evident today in the digital age.
Thus, owners may want to consider hiring an employee or business specifically to perform ongoing searches to monitor for possible misuse of a protected asset.
Taking action if there are copyright violations
Should an owner discover that someone has infringed on their copyright, they can and should take action to stop them.
One option is to contact the infringing party directly, inform them of the violation and request that they stop infringing actions. Owners can do this themselves, or they can work with an attorney to send a cease and desist letter.
These efforts can be sufficient when parties are unaware of the violation.
However, this approach is not always effective. And by the time the person ceases their infringing activity, an owner may have already suffered significant financial losses as a result of the infringement. These losses can include loss of profits and potential licensing revenue.
Under these circumstances, an owner may pursue a civil claim against the infringing party seeking statutory damages or actual damages and profits of the infringer.
Why it is crucial to enforce copyrights and other intellectual property
Intellectual property can be a driving factor in the success and competitiveness of a business. And when parties devote money, time, and other resources to creating that work, learning that someone is using that material for their own financial gain can be highly upsetting.
Taking swift, aggressive action to stop copyright infringement can be crucial in minimizing losses and preserving the integrity of the work. Often, this means working with an attorney to navigate the legal aspects of calling out the infringing activity and filing a civil claim against infringers.
When parties do not take action to enforce copyrights, they do not lose their copyright. However, they can lose money, particularly if they wait to file a civil claim. And when parties do not defend their copyrights, that material can become less valuable and distinguishing for the owner.
Copyright owners have the right to control who uses, distributes or reproduces their work. When an infringing party is reaping the financial rewards of someone else’s creation, they can and should be held accountable for the damage this causes.