September 25th, 2016
Many small businesses and modern entrepreneurs mistakenly believe that they do not have any intellectual property in their business. Or, they significantly undervalue the intellectual property they do have. And yet, intellectual property can not only be a significant asset in a business, but it can be the most significant asset in a business!
What portion of the value of one’s business might be based on intellectual property? I often hear estimates of 15, 25, and 50%. It may surprise you to learn that even as of 2007, nearly 10 years ago, in a review of the wealthiest 200 companies in the world, it was determined that 90% of these companies valuations (at that time) were based on their intellectual property! And intellectual property is not unique to big business.
Accordingly, why do modern online businesses and entrepreneurs need to be well-educated on copyright basics? For information entrepreneurs, a significant (if not a majority) portion of the value in your business could depend on it!
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization:
Copyright is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works. Works covered by copyright range from books, music, paintings, sculpture and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps and technical drawings.
The U.S. Copyright Office defines copyright as:
A form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for “original works of authorship”, including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations. “Copyright” literally means the right to copy but has come to mean that body of exclusive rights granted by law to copyright owners for protection of their work.
It is important to note that description goes on to say that “Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, title, principle, or discovery. Similarly, names, titles, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, coloring, and listings of contents or ingredients are not subject to copyright.”
Some of these items excluded from copyright protection above are properly protected by a patent or trademark registration, which I will cover in separate posts.
But for purposes of this article, I want you to understand the basic definition of copyright, as well as the benefits of obtaining copyright protection. Many people mistakenly belief that you must register your work before you can claim copyright: not so!
However, registration of your work for purposes of obtaining a registered copyright offers the following benefits:
- It establishes public record of your copyright claim.
- Registration is required before you can file an infringement suit for U.S. based work.
- If registration is obtained before or within 5 years of publication, it established prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright.
- If registration is made within 3 months of the publication of the work or prior to an infringement, the copyright holder can seek statutory damages and attorney’s fees. (Otherwise, they may only seek actual damages and profits from the infringement).
- Registration also allows the copyright holder to seek protection with U.S. Customs Service to help protect against the importation of infringing copies.
How much does a copyright registration cost? For most modern works, between $35 and $55 if you seek a registration yourself. Visit the US Copyright Office here for more information on fees.
For a more thorough review of Copyright Basics, check out this circular prepared by the US Copyright Office.
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