Copyright Creators strives to educate about copyright issues.  The following is general information about: Intellectual Property, Copyright Basics, Registering Copyright Online vs. Poor Man's Copyright, Infringement Issues and other common Copyright Questions.

 

For more specific information about Copyright Creators and how to register copyright online, please view our FAQs. As a reminder, the information below does not constitute legal advice.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

:: The Different Categories of Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property is the umbrella of law which can be described as 'creations of the mind'. Each sector of intellectual property has specific rules governing the rights of the creators.

The different types of intellectual property include:

Copyright:
• Unlike the other forms of intellectual property, copyright provides automatic protection the moment the work is put in a tangible form. International treaties, such as the Berne Convention, help govern international copyright law.
• Works covered by copyright law include: literary, artistic/visual, dramatic/performing arts, musical, sound recordings, and serials & periodicals.
• Similar to Trademarks, copyright does not have to be registered to be protected, however, the owner of the work can enforce their rights much more easily if the work has been registered with a third party.
• A single registration with Copyright Creators will help provide the proof and protection required should infringement occur.

Trademarks:
• Includes words, symbols, and/or designs that are used to distinguish the goods and services of one organization from another.
• A trademark allows its owners the exclusive use of the mark to be identified with their good or service. A ™ can be used for trademarks not yet registered, and an 'R' (in a circle) is used to identify registered trademarks. Some countries, such as the United States, use a 'service mark'(SM) to distinguish between marks used for services. The SM is only used for unregistered services.
• Trademarks may be protected through use (however, the mark will only be protected in the specific area where the reputation for the mark has been acquired through use). Otherwise, a trademark can be protected through registration. Registering a Trademark grants the user the exclusive right to use that mark.
• A trademark registration is only valid in the country where it was filed, with exception to the European Union, where there now exists a Community Trade Mark (CTM) which covers the mark in all EU countries.

Patents:
• Includes protection of new inventions or useful improvements to existing inventions. Patents are granted at a national or territory level, not at an international level.
• If you would like patent protection in other countries, you need to apply for a patent in each country.


Industrial Design:

• Includes the visual aspect of a creation. Industrial design covers the actual two-dimensional or three-dimensional original features of the creation, where copyright would cover the artistic expression of the design in a tangible form.
• Industrial designs must be registered to be protected, and protection generally lasts 5-15 years.
• Depending on the country, an industrial design can sometimes be protected along with copyright, but other countries require their nationals to choose one protection or the other.
• For the most part, Industrial designs are protected in the nation it was registered, however, under the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs, international registration may be acquired.


Trade Secrets:
• Include confidential information providing a business some form or competitive advantage.
• Trade secrets can be protected without registration and do not have an expiration period for which the protection is released.
• The difficulty in trade secrets is keeping the secret. Once the information is made public, anyone can have access to it – which is why a patent is may be a better choice if the item is patentable.


COPYRIGHT

:: Berne Convention-International Standards for Copyright

The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, which concluded in 1886, was developed to harmonize laws regarding the protection of intellectual property, internationally. The idea is for member countries to have similar minimum standards of protection for copyright. The Convention is administered by the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO), a specialized agency of the United Nations For more information about the convention and its basic principles, click here.

 

:: What is Copyright?

Copyright is a set of specific and exclusive rights (including the right to produce or reproduce the work in question) granted to the owner of copyright for a limited time. These rights serve to protect the particular form, way or manner in which an idea or information is expressed.

Copyright arises automatically upon an author’s or creator’s expression of an idea in an original, fixed form. Works which may be covered by copyright include:

• Literary (novels, short stories, plays, song lyrics, computer software source code)
• Artistic/Visual Arts (sculpture, drawing, illustration, graphic design, plans, maps, photographs, architectural work)
• Dramatic (films, videos, choreography), Musical (musical composition with or without words)
• Sound Recordings (recordings of music, drama, or lectures)
• Serial & Periodicals (periodicals, newspapers, magazines, bulletins, newsletters, annuals, journals, proceedings of societies)


While registration is not mandatory, as copyright is automatic, it serves the valuable service of providing you with essential information should you need to prove your ownership of the work in question.

:: Who Owns Copyright?

As a general rule, the creator of the copyright (the author) is the first owner. However, there are circumstances where the author is not the owner of copyright, and thus, does not have the rights copyright provides. These instances may include: if the work was created in the course of employment; if the work was commissioned; and or if the original owner has transferred the rights of the work.

When there are several authors of one work, all authors are considered co-authors. It is recommended you decide among yourselves, and agree in writing, what share of income from the exploitation of that copyright each of you will earn. As a reminder, copyright rules differ per county. It is always important to consult your country’s Copyright Act.

:: What is the duration of copyright?

Copyright duration depends on the type of work and the country where it was created. The Canadian Copyright Act stipulates that copyright is valid for: “the life of the author, the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and a period of fifty years following the end of that calendar year”. While other countries follow the ‘life-plus-fifty’ rule as well, the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and European Union’s Copyright Acts state that the duration is seventy (70) year following the end of the calendar year in which the author passed. After this time, the work falls in to the “public domain.”

:: Registration & Evidence of Copyright

Whenever there is a dispute regarding a work which is covered by copyright, the court hearing the dispute will require evidence convincing it of at least the following facts:

a) the author of the work
b) that the work is the proper subject matter of copyright
c) that the work is original in that it is not copied from another work


When you register with your country’s copyright office, the court will accept a certificate of registration as providing the evidence noted in (a) and (b) above. If you do not have a certificate, you must prove those facts in some other manner. People have tried various methods of proving these facts, such as registering with copyright collectives such as: SOCAN (Canada), ASCAP or BMI (United States), APRA (Australia & New Zealand), GEMA (Germany), or SADAIC (Argentina), or by sending the work to themselves by registered mail (otherwise known as 'poor man's copyright').

Although these other forms of creating and providing evidence of authorship may be appropriate in some instances, they are not intended to be used as copyright registries and will not necessarily protect copyright. Most performance rights organizations specifically state that they are not copyright registries, and the post office is not obligated in any way to support your allegations regarding registered mail.

Copyright Creators’ mandate is to help you establish the essential evidence required by the courts in as clear and as detailed a manner as possible. We screen creators through a series of detailed questions, we request that digital samples of the work be deposited, and we do everything in our power to convince ourselves that you are in fact the author of the work you’re registering, that your work is properly copyrightable, and that the work was in fact fixed in a material form at least as early as the day you deposited it with us.

:: What Should I Do if Someone Infringes on My Work?

Advancements in technology have left the copyright community more vulnerable to theft, manipulation and alteration of original work. Registration is critical if someone infringes upon your copyright and you wish to take legal action to stop them, win legal and court expenses or claim significant damages.

Should you choose not to consult a legal expert right away, here are some steps to combat copyright infringement and protect copyright:

• Identify the infringer and inform them of the theft and request removal, correction, modification and/or compensation. Include a deadline for the infringer to respond in your communications. Perhaps they did not know they were infringing on your work and this notice will clear-up everything.

• If there is no response, send the thief, and any parties related (i.e. website server host, advertisers) a cease and desist order prohibiting them from continuing their infringement. Examples of these orders can be found on the web. In addition, include a copy of your Registration Certificate from Copyright Creators which provides strong 3rd party evidence of your copyright ownership.

• If there is still no response, you should seek legal counsel to determine what further course of action you would like to pursue.

 

:: What is Creative Commons?

When you create an original work and put it in a fixed form, you hold the exclusive rights to that work. These rights include being the sole person who can produce or reproduce the work – and having the authority to decide who else can do this. However, not all artists want these rights to protect their copyright.


If this is the case, you can indicate on your work which rights you choose to ‘license’ to others so they can share, remix, and/or use commercially. Creative Commons provides free licenses to mark your creative work, indicating which rights you choose to give to others.


Regardless which rights you choose to license, you will still own the copyright to your work, and you should still register your work to protect your copyright should infringement occur.

 


REGISTERING WORKS

:: What is copyright registration?

The act of registering one’s copyright online or elsewhere is done to provide proof and assurance that you are the owner of the work in question and create evidence regarding the date for the work's existence. Copyright registration records specific facts that can be used to settle disputes with alleged infringers before any recourse to the courts is necessary. In essence, registration helps protect copyright.

:: Why Should I Register My Work?

Although copyright arises automatically upon an author’s or creator’s expression of an idea in an original, fixed form, registration provides you with a certificate from a 3rd party stating you are the copyright owner and establishes a date for the work's existence . This certificate can be used in court to help establish ownership in the event of infringement. As such, registration provides important proof and protection against infringers and can help discourage others from using your work without your permission.  Aditionally, Copyright Creators can produce a copy of your registered work and confirm the date of registration.

:: What works can be Registered?

Copyright protects ‘Original works of authorship’ that are fixed in a tangible form of expression.

Copyright generally falls into one of the following categories:

• Literary (novels, short stories, plays, song lyrics, computer software source code)

• Artistic/Visual Arts (sculpture, drawing, illustration, graphic design, plans, maps, photographs, architectural work)

• Dramatic (films, videos, choreography), Musical (musical composition with or without words)

• Sound Recordings (recordings of music, drama, or lectures)

• Serial & Periodicals (periodicals, newspapers, magazines, bulletins, newsletters, annuals, journals, proceedings of societies)

:: What Works Cannot be Registered?

Copyright does not protect: ideas, names, titles, slogans, concepts, themes, catch-phrases, methods of doing something. However, you may express your ideas in writing or drawing and claim copyright in your expression, but the idea itself is not protected.

:: Does copyright registration guarantee that registered
     work will never be infringed upon?

Unfortunately, registration cannot guarantee against infringement. What copyright registration does is provide you with important documentation to help prove your ownership and the date of existence for the work should it be infringed upon. Additionally copyright registration may help you settle a dispute with alleged infringers without spending the money, time, and energy required in going to a court of law.

:: Is mailing myself something through registered
     mail an effective way to register my work?

'Poor man's copyright' is not an effective method to help protect copyright. Post offices do not consider themselves to be a copyright registry, and as such, they do not attempt to collect, store, or create the necessary information in order to convince a court of this fact. Whenever there is a dispute regarding a creation which is covered by copyright, the court hearing the dispute will require evidence convincing it of at least one of the following facts: the author of the work, that the work is the proper subject matter of copyright, and that the work is original in that it is not copied from another work. Copyright Creators maintains, not only a copy of the work but, a detailed registration form of the creations being submitted. In addition, since the post office does not consider itself to be a copyright registry, it is not obligated in any way to support allegations regarding registered mail. As well, records of registered mail are only kept, on average, for 2 to 3 years. The duration of copyright is the life of the author plus 50 years past the calendar year of the death of the last standing author in Canada and 70 years past the death of the last standing author in the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Australia. As such, registered mail would only protect you for a small fraction of the time that copyright exists – if at all.  Registering your copyright online with Copyright Creators would provide you with a secure copy of your work and a detailed copy of your copyright registration certificate.

:: Can I just e-mail my work to myself or to a friend?

Similar to the concept of 'poor man's copyright', e-mailing yourself or a friend your work might create a certain amount of legal evidence. However, e-mail is much less secure, reliable and credible than Copyright Creators. As a copyright protection provider, our business is to provide our clients with tools to protect, manage, and store your copyright in ways that e-mail cannot.

:: Can SOCAN, SESAC, ASCAP, or BMI be used
     as an effective means to register copyright?

It is a common misconception that by registering with performance rights organizations such as: SOCAN, SESAC, ASCAP, BMI, or APRA, you are registering your copyright. This is not true. Many copyright collectives specifically state that they are not copyright registries, but rather, public performance royalty organizations. These bodies keep a record and monitor the name of songs that are being played in public; they never receive the specific details of your work. Their system is not designed to collect the necessary information about members’ works in order to provide proof of authorship in court. Instead, they focus on another important aspect of protecting artists, which is to monitor the use of your songs by various licensees, and then compensate you in accordance with their playback.

:: Can I Make a Registration Claim in a US Court if I am Not a US Citizen?

Yes. As of 1989, the United States became a signatory to the Berne Convention. While their citizens must register with the US government to claim statutory damages and attorney's fees, residents from other countries are not required to register with them to make a claim in the US courts. As such, a registration with Copyright Creators would be perfectly suitable to make a claim in a US court if you are not a US citizen.

:: I am a US citizen, should I still register with Copyright Creators?

While registering with Copyright Creators does not take the place of registering with the the Library of Congress, U.S. Copyright Office, both create valid legal evidence that can be used in a court of law.  In most cases, copyright infringement issues are settled out of court because of the evidence provided. However, if you are among the minority who has to pursue court action, US citizens are required to file a registration with the US government in order to put forth a legal suit.

:: If I register a copyright with Copyright Creators, is it good all over the world?

Copyright Creators is for international protection of Copyright. The protection can be extended to anyone who creates copyright in a country that belongs to the Berne Convention, which includes over 150 countries--Canada & the U.S included.

Click here for a full list of Berne Convention countries.

 


WORK-SPECIFIC QUESTIONS

:: Can I Register my Clothing Patterns?

When dealing with clothing patterns, the answer is not ‘clear-cut’.  If the pattern is intended to be a one-of-a-kind piece and displays a unique “aesthetic and non-utilitarian aspect”, it may be protected under copyright law.  Most patterns, however, would be considered ‘commercial objects’ and would not qualify for copyright protection.  It would be prudent to consult a lawyer regarding your specific situation to ensure your pattern qualifies before registering your copyright online.

:: When would I Register My Script under a 'Literary Work' vs. a 'Dramatic Work'?

The distinctive difference between Literary and Dramatic works is the intention of the work. Was the work written with the intention of being produced or performed (i.e. a script written for T.V, Movies, etc.)? Does the script include dialogue and descriptions of the scenes that it is intended for? If this is the case, the work should be registered as a 'Dramatic Work'. However, if your work was written with the intention of being published, (i.e. books, poems, etc.) they would be registered under 'Literary Works'.

Click here to register your work and protect copyright online.

:: Can I Protect My Band's Name Under Copyright Law?

No. Names do not fall under copyright protection. However, trademark law will protect: distinctive names, slogans, words, symbols, or other original devices that identify the product or service from others in the marketplace.

:: Can I Protect My Band's Logo with Copyright Creators?

Yes. Assuming the logo is more than just the name of the band and has and original and artistic element, it can be protected as a Visual Work with Copyright Creators. Remember, it's the design that is being protected and not the name of the band. To learn more about protecting copyright for band logos, click here.

:: Can 2 or more people register a work with Copyright Creators?

Yes. Two or more people protect copyright online with Copyright Creators and acknowledge each other as ‘co-authors in ‘Step 3’ of our registration process. In this step, you have the opportunity to fill-out information about yourself and your specific contribution to the project. At the bottom of this form there is the option to ‘Add another Author’. Clicking this will enable you to fill-out the information about your co-author and describe their specific contribution to the project.

The advantage of registering the work individually (versus one registration for both of you), is that you will both have your own unique Registration Certificate that will remain in the Copyright Creators system along with a digital copy of the work you are registering. Should you and the co-writer cease contact with each other, you will have protected yourself because you will still have access to your own account containing a copy of the work and the Registration Certificate.

 

:: What is the rule around collections? If I Submit a CD, have I registered the copyright of each song, or the album itself?

If you register the CD as a collective work, you will not have registered each song, but rather, the grouping of the songs.

In the second step of the registration process, you have the option to register a 'contribution to a collection' (which would be an individual song that appears in your compilation (the whole CD)), or to register a 'collective work' (which would be all your songs). If you choose 'collective work', then you are registering the work as a whole...and not the separate pieces.

When the courts evaluate whether someone has infringed on a work, they look at how much was 'stolen'. If they consider the amount to be a significant portion of the work, they may deem that infringement occurred.

In the case of a collective work - each contribution to the work makes up a piece of the contribution. So if someone uses one song that is part of a 12 song compilation, the courts may feel this is a very small part of the compilation. If, on the other hand, the poem was registered on its own and someone stole it...the courts would see that that a significant portion of the work was used. Additionally, it is easier to claim ownership of a single song than the multiple songs together.

As such, you can register a collective work - but it means the evidence for each piece within the work is weaker than if they were registered on their own. If you are more concerned with the protection of the collection of work - then you should register as a compilation. However, if it's the individual songs you really want protected - you should register each one individually.

 

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