What does copyright Protect?
Copyright protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, architecture, etc.
Copyright interests are sticky such that the copyright in a work, vests automatically in the author of the work, and it stays with the author, unless expressly transferred to someone else. If your business involves creative work like writing, singing, taking pictures, designing art, then copyright protection should not be overlooked.
The copyright symbol
The copyright symbol is generally not necessary. But the function of the symbol remains the same – to give notice that the identified work is protected by copyright. They are on books, websites, and packaged goods. They are also at the end of movies and television shows, usually with a warning about the effects of copyright infringement.
The use of the copyright notice informs the public that a work is protected by copyright. It identifies the copyright owner, and shows the year of first publication.
The copyright notice should generally contain three elements together, or closely enough; which are:
- The symbol © (letter C in a circle); the word “Copyright”; or the abbreviation “Copr.”
- The year of first publication.
- The name of the copyright owner.
Below are a few examples of how some major companies use the copyright symbol :
© 2015 Twitter
© 2015 Microsoft
© 2015 Instagram
© 2012 Google Inc. All rights reserved.
© 1997-2015 Netflix, Inc.
The majority of these companies use the copyright symbol in the front, then the current year and name of the company. But this can vary without impacting protection of the copyright. Some add “All Rights Reserved” as well.
It doesn’t happen very often, but if for some reason, more than one person can be said to have contributed enough has to be called an author, how is this to be handled?
- Each joint author shares in the ownership of the whole work and not the part he contributed
- Each joint author may use the work or license it unilaterally. If they do so, he must give the others their appropriate share of the sum. If he fails to do so, he is subject to a suit for accounting. There is presumption of equal shares of license fees. This is true, even if their contribution was unequal. This presumption can however be overwritten by an agreement.
- Functions like a tenancy in common. – When one of the joint authors dies, his or her interest passes to his or her hiers not to the other joint authors; it works like a tenancy in common in real property law and not like a joint tenancy. The difference between those two legal conceptions is that the latter carries with it a right of survivorship while the former doesn’t.
What happens when your copyright is infringed?
In the event that your work is infringed, if the work carries a proper copyright notice, it will be enforceable. If you are found guilty of copyright infringement, the court will order you to pay damages. The amount depends on the profit loss during the infringement and the number of times the copyright was infringed. You may also be guilty of a crime and liable to a jail term.
The court will not give any weight to use of another’s copyright which was done innocently. This is known as the doctrine of fair use. At best, a defense of an innocent infringement can result in a reduction in damages that the copyright owner would otherwise receive.