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Copyrighting Your Business's Creations

A copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, prepare derivative works, distribute copies of the copyrighted work, perform the copyrighted work publicly, or display the copyrighted work publicly.

A copyright is automatically created when your business creates the work itself — no need to file forms or pay someone to copyright your business's work for you. You can apply a copyright symbol (©) to your work at any time without getting anyone’s approval to do so. If, however, you want to be able to legally protect your work (a smart move), you should register your copyright and apply the © to it. You’ll discover plenty of advantages to registering your copyright:

  • Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim — extremely valuable evidence that you have a right to it.

  • Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U.S. origin.

  • If made before or within five years of publication, registration will establish that the facts stated in the certificate of copyright are presumed to be true unless proven otherwise.

  • If registration is made within three months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, damages specified by statute (or law) and attorney’s fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions.

  • Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service for protection against imports that infringe on your copyright.

Registering your copyright gives you, as the creator of the work, protection for your entire lifetime plus 70 years (ideally, that should be long enough to cover you).

Registering your copyright is simple: Fill out a brief form, then submit it with a check for $30 and a copy of your work to the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress. For complete details, visit the Web site for the Copyright Office.

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