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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Small Business Blog: Did you know that you may already be the owner of a copyright? Should you register your copyright?

If you created an original creative work such as a photo, a blog, a YouTube video, training material, or a website, you are immediately protected under copyright law so long as it is fixed in a tangible medium and is not simply an idea in your mind. You immediately own your work and you have the exclusive right to reproduce or copy your work, prepare derivative works, distribute, publicly perform, and publicly display your work.

Even though you may immediately own the work, there are still advantages to registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. The biggest advantage is that you can stop people from infringing on your copyrighted work in court. If you register your work prior to infringement or within three months of publishing your original work, then you are entitled to statutory damages. More on statutory damages later.

If you do not register your work within three months or prior to infringement, then it becomes more complicated to get compensated for the infringement. You would have to present proof that you were actually harmed by the infringement as well as present the infringer’s gross income to determine how much they profited from your copyrighted work. Only then would you be entitled to recoup any financial losses you experienced and any improper financial gains the infringer earned from your work.

Statutory damages are the financial compensation you can expect to receive as written by law. Small business owners might prefer statutory damages as opposed to actual damages because it requires less evidence. Statutory damages range from $750-$30,000 for each work that was infringed upon. Sometimes the courts will award less or more depending on whether the infringement was committed intentionally or unknowingly.

Once you decide that you want to register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office, you should prepare your application along with a physical or electronic copy of your work. When preparing your application, make sure that you own the work. If you created all aspects of the work yourself, then it’s simple. If you created only some parts of the work such as the visual component, but someone else created the audio component, you might be joint owners. Speak to your attorney if you have copyright ownership concerns.





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