Intellectual property (“IP”) is a term that generally refers to different areas of law that protect the products of the mind and the personality. For our purposes, copyright, trademark, privacy rights and publicity rights fall under the umbrella of “intellectual property.” If you are worried your IP has been stolen, then you might want to contact an experienced business lawyer in Raleigh, or wherever is local to you.
Copyright law may be the most important area of intellectual property for filmmakers because filmmakers are copyright owners as well as copyright users. In other words, you should know how to protect your own work and be willing to respect the rights of other artists. For a comprehensive overview of copyright law, please download our free publication, Copyright Basics. Here are a few key concepts:
Creation of Copyright
It is a common misconception that copyright in a work is difficult or complicated to obtain. It’s actually quite simple. All you have to do is produce a minimally creative “original work of authorship” and fix or record your creation in some way – write it down, capture it on film, record it on tape, etc. It is important to understand that you cannot copyright ideas, only the fixed expression of ideas.
“Original” Work of Authorship
There are two requirements for a work to be an “original work of authorship.” First, you must be the “author” of the work, meaning it was you who created the work, such as writing a screenplay. Second, the work must be “original,” which means that it was not copied from any other source.
Also, you should be aware that you might not own the copyright in a work that you were hired to create for someone else.
Owning a copyright is different than physical possession of the work. The copyright is not some sort of official document you can hold in your hands or show to your friends. When you own a copyright, you actually own a number of exclusive rights in the work you created. They are the rights to: