Copyright (also known as author’s right) is a legal term that refers to a form of protection granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.
As a form of intellectual property law, copyright protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.
A creator’s work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.
There are two types of rights under copyright:
Most copyright laws state that the rights owner has the economic right to authorize or prevent certain uses in relation to a work or, in some cases, to receive remuneration for the use of his work (such as through collective management). The economic rights owner of a work can prohibit or authorize:
Examples of widely recognized moral rights include the right to claim authorship of a work and the right to oppose changes to a work that could harm the creator’s reputation.
Copyright protects original works of authorship, while a patent protects inventions or discoveries. Ideas and discoveries are not protected by the copyright law, although the way in which they are expressed may be.
A trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishing them from those of others.
Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within five years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law.
Once you are the right owner of a work, you can provide authorization for others to use or exploit your work. Such authorizations are commonly referred to as “licenses” and may or may not entail paying the rights owner. It is always recommended to seek expert legal advice before negotiating a licensing agreement.
If you wish to license your work to users such as broadcasters, publishers, or even entertainment establishments (i.e. bars, nightclubs), joining a collective management organization (CMO) may be a good option. CMOs monitor uses of works on behalf of creators and publishers and are in charge of negotiating licenses and collecting remuneration. They are particularly common in the field of musical and literary works where there may be a large number of users of the same work and it would be difficult both for the owner of rights and the users to seek specific authorization for every single use and to monitor them.