What is a Copyright?
Here on our law student blog we often talk about copyrights and intellectual property, and I thought it might help to write a quick summary of what a copyright actually is. A copyright exists when a band or any other artist creates a physical copy of their work. So when a band writes down their music or records it they now own a copyright to that song. The key is that the work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. So that amazing song you wrote singing in the shower or that great original painting being stared at by your mind’s eye is unprotected. All you need to do is write them down and you have a copyright. You can even use the copyright symbol. However, if you want to find out more about copyright law, especially to protect your brand, you might be interested in check out here for more information.
The difficult part is being able to prove that you have created the copyrighted material first, if there is ever a legal challenge. This is where the copyright office comes in. By filing a copyright with the office in D.C. one is able to officially document their copyright with the government. The problem is copyrights can involve a lot of forms and can get expensive. The copyright office website may be found here: http://www.copyright.gov/.
If you go to that website you will notice it can be very complicated. There are a number of forms and different fees for many different types of work you may be registering. If you are registering the lyrics to a song, or the music you may wish to file separate copyrights. Also, many bands may wish to file the artwork for their albums.
Even though your copyright exists as soon as you record your artistic expression, filing a copyright can be very important. If you wish to defend your copyrighted work in court, having your work registered is invaluable and can provide prima facie evidence that you created it. It is usually easier for businesses to get copyright on their products as they can use lawyers like these orange county business lawyers for help but it can be a bit more tricky to get copyright on your artwork. I know any artists reading this may be thinking, “well all this sounds great, but being so complicated I don’t know if it’s really worth it”. Stop thinking that! because the VLAA may be able to help you navigate the frustrating complicated waters of copyright law. If you are a local St. Louis artist or band and would like help protecting your artistic work check out our website at www.vlaa.org and the wonderful people at the Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for Arts may be able to help.
So to recap: 1. When you physically write down or record your work, you have a copyright on it. You can and should start using the copyright symbol. 2. Registering your copyright with the US Copyright office is still important for any legal issues you may have. And 3. If all of this sounds really tricky you can always look to the VLAA for help.
Image Credit: http://cdn.mysitemyway.com/etc-mysitemyway/icons/legacy-previews/icons/glowing-purple-neon-icons-business/113027-glowing-purple-neon-icon-business-copyright.png
by Mike Singer