Despite notions to the contrary, copyright matters often present the most complex issues pertaining to protection, authorship and ownership, licensing and transfers, and enforcement of copyrights. Today’s global and digital environment also contributes to the complex issues faced by copyright owners.
Copyright protection affixes to both published and unpublished original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works the moment a work is fixed in a tangible medium. A copyright registration is not required before copyright protection applies to a work. However, a copyright registration is required to enforce a copyright in federal court and failure to timely obtain a registration may result in loss of statutory benefits that apply to registrations obtained within the statutory period.
A copyright includes not just one right but a bundle of exclusive rights that may be maintained, licensed or assigned independent of the other exclusive rights. Often legal battles arise when the proper legal documents are not executed between parties concerning the ownership of the copyright to certain works, which leaves the parties operating under misconceptions regarding what they have retained or acquired. For example, even if a person paid millions of dollars for an original painting of himself, without a written agreement to the contrary, he only owns the original painting. He can sell the original painting but he does not have the rights to reproduce copies of the painting, unless his use constitutes a “fair use.”
Businesses and individuals who hire third parties, who are not their employees, to prepare works on their behalf should be especially cautious and concerned with ensuring that they have acquired the actual copyright in those works as well as all underlying works that may have been used in creating the work.
Attorney Leslie A. Burgk provides clients in the U.S. and abroad counsel in:
- Filing and prosecution of copyright applications
- Contracts to secure the copyright or right to use a work, including licensing, assignments, and work-for-hire agreements
- Employment contracts relating to copyright ownership and use
- Counseling and legal analysis concerning copyright protection, ownership issues, joint-authorship and accounting, and infringement actions.
- IP Audits and portfolio management