The Importance of Protecting Your Creative Work Legally
By Trinity Hanson, published: 2023-05-18
Why is copyright important in the digital world?
Nowadays, almost everyone can download and pirate books, music, films, and computer programs. Access to the Internet has made stealing and illegally transferring creative works happen at concerning speeds and quantities.
In the film and television industry alone, digital theft cost the US economy at least 290,000 jobs and $29 billion in revenue loss. Thus, as a filmmaker, writer, musician, or artist, it’s critical to safeguard your published work with copyright protection.
Copyright enables creative professionals to produce works without fear of someone else replicating and profiting from them. Unfortunately, upholding copyright protection is challenging because of tech innovations like smartphones, digital cameras, e-books, and social media. Find out more about why legal protection is vital for media industries and how to protect your creative work legally in this digital age and the best tools you can use for legal practice management.
Importance of legal protection for creative work
Despite content developers’ efforts to prevent piracy, criminals are constantly modifying their methods to bypass security measures and access protected content. Consequently, the unauthorized use and distribution of someone else’s work continue to hurt the creative industries.
MUSO, a piracy-focused research firm, estimated 141.7 billion visits to piracy websites in the first eight months of 2022. TV content claimed the largest traffic volume of piracy visits, with 46.6 percent.
Publishing piracy ranked second with 27.8 percent, and film came third with 12.4 percent. The software sector had the lowest share of traffic to piracy, next to music piracy at just seven percent.
All five media sectors also showed notable increases in torrent networks and unlicensed streaming websites.
The consequences of these online piracy visits go further than stolen movies and other content. It also negatively impacts creative professionals’ economic security, industry, and employees.
Demands for piracy continue to rise throughout 2023, enough to enhance legal protection for creative work with copyright registration. However, many undermine the importance of copyright, knowing it automatically applies to their work.
As an emerging musician, author, photographer, graphic designer, artist, or programmer, you should take proactive steps to safeguard your original work. Obtaining copyright is important for the following reasons:
Establish Rights and Ownership
Under Section 102 of the US Code Title 17, copyright automatically protects original works, whether recorded physically or electronically. Examples of these copyrightable works include:
- Literary works
- Musical works
- Dramatic works
- Audiovisual works
- Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
- Sound recordings
- Architectural work
Although these works of authorship are subject to automatic copyright protection, some creators improve their rights by registering their work. Copyright registration isn’t mandatory. However, it creates a public record of authorship and ownership details of your claimed work
Boost the integrity of your work
Your family and friends may know the works you authored. However, it can be challenging for others to identify that you’re the real owner of an original creation. Having your work registered with the US Copyright Office gives proof of authorship and ownership.
Registration will help boost the integrity of your creation. A certificate of copyright registration demonstrates how much you value your work as a professional creator. It can put you in a better position when negotiating with potential producers, publishers, and collaborators.
Increase your financial gains
As the owner of copyright-protected work, you have the right to stop others from using it without your permission. However, you must register your work to file an infringement lawsuit against the individual or entity violating your copyright.
By registering your work, you may seek compensation for the financial loss incurred due to infringement. It also allows you to stop infringing copies from entering the border by recording your copyright with the US Customs and Border Protection. Moreover, registration will help enforce your economic interests as a legitimate copyright owner. As a result, you can also gain financial rewards as authorized individuals use your work.
Different Types of Patents
Copyright is one type of intellectual property (IP) protection for original creations. Although it enables artists to monetize their talents and make a living, copyright doesn’t protect ideas.
Others can create a piece of work using the same idea as yours without infringing your copyright. Similarly, concepts, systems, or procedures involved in performing something are also not copyrightable on their own.
Suppose you’re the creator of advanced software. Copyright law may protect the software program and its actual source code from being copied and used without your permission. However, it won’t safeguard the functional elements of your software invention.
You can seek patent protection if you want to prevent others from utilizing the same features or algorithms embodied in your software program. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grants patents to protect an original invention for a specified period.
A US patent gives you exclusive rights over your invention for up to 20 years. Without your consent, no one else can manufacture, sell or import your patented invention. This exclusivity allows you to create products with no competitors and set the price with a high-profit margin throughout the life of a patent.
For instance, suppose someone steals or copies your patented products without your permission. You can take legal action against them. However, unlike copyrights, patent protection isn’t automatic. The process for a patent application can be time-consuming and complex. Section 102 of the US Code Title 35 specifies the conditions when new and useful inventions and discoveries are patentable. There are three types of US patents available for inventors, namely:
Commonly known as patents for invention, utility patents cover the function or operation of the machine or device. They also encompass articles of manufacture, business methods, and compositions of matter.
The primary reason behind seeking a utility patent is that the invention needs a thorough explanation of how it works. Examples of inventions that utility patents protect include investment strategy, computer software, and medical equipment.
Design patents protect the visual appearance of a manufactured item. They’re specific to the illustrations or drafted documents defining what’s covered by the patent.
A design patent prevents competitors from replicating your product’s ornamental design or aesthetic and non-functional elements. It includes colors, shapes, textures, patterns, or a combination of these factors.
This patent is valuable legal protection in industries where design is crucial to consumer purchasing decisions. Take, for example, the fashion industry, where products with appealing colors tend to catch the eye of customers.
Examples of design patents can include ornamental designs on furniture, jewelry, automobiles, beverage containers, and computer icons.
Plant patents protect the invention or discovery of a new and distinct variety of plants through asexual reproduction. The process involves generating a plant using methods other than seeds, such as cutting or grafting.
The patent helps inventors prevent others from copying, selling, or using the plant’s new and unique vital characteristics. There may be two named inventors in a plant patent: the one who discovered the new plant variety and the individual who asexually reproduced it.
How to Protect Your Creative Work Legally?
Protecting your intellectual property must be a priority as an inventor or creator. Remember that no one else will search for copyright or patent infringements on your behalf. It’s up to you to proactively secure your intellectual works from copycats, infringers, and thieves.
Seeking legal advice from an experienced lawyer is the best way to understand and enforce your rights in the work you create. Besides hiring legal professionals, here are some ways to protect your creations or inventions legally:
Apply for the appropriate legal protection
Trademarks are another type of intellectual property protection. While copyright is used for creative and artistic works and patents for new and novel inventions, trademarks apply to brand names, logos, or slogans.
Understanding what kind of intellectual property protection your work requires will help determine the best way to safeguard it. Find out the specific requirements for eligibility once you know which type of legal protection you need.
Registering your work provides significant protection as it validates your ownership. Consequently, you can enforce your rights in case unauthorized individuals misuse your creative works or inventions.
For instance, copyright registration allows you to file a lawsuit and collect damages from infringers. Meanwhile, an unregistered trademark notifies the public of your claim but doesn’t give you the right to sue for infringement.
Document your creative works
Information leaks happen frequently, and you can’t always prevent them. Suppose you lose your original work or someone challenges you as a copyright or trademark owner. A record of the progression of your work can serve as supporting evidence to prove your ownership and rights.
Early drafts, rough sketches, and first recordings are examples that will show the development of your creations or invention. It’s a good idea to document them and add dates wherever possible. You can also include and submit them at the time of registration.
Use non-disclosure agreements
A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is a legally binding contract between parties that ensures sensitive information remains confidential. You can use the contract as a freelancer creator or inventor to protect your work from theft or unauthorized disclosure.
A well-crafted NDA protects your creations from getting stolen, particularly when you’re negotiating with potential clients who will have access to them. Additionally, it gives you legal recourse in case of an agreement breach.
Enforcement of Creative Work Protection
Enforcing your rights as a creator or inventor is vital to protect your work and deter future infringements. By registering your creative work, you can enforce your rights as the owner.
However, it’s your responsibility to enforce your copyright, patent, or trademark if infringement happens. Government agencies won’t intervene in the enforcement of your intellectual property rights.
You may resort to a cease and desist letter to inform the infringer that they’re using your work without consent. Moreover, you can take action if they don’t stop immediately.
The USPTO recommends seeking legal advice from a licensed lawyer when taking legal action against violators. You can also report acts of intellectual property violations online at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center.
International Protection of Creative Work
International protection of creative work is essential, especially when you’re looking to work with global clients or partners.
However, intellectual property rights may differ across countries and jurisdictions. Although it’s more complicated than protecting your rights in the US, enforcing your copyright, patent, and trademark abroad is possible.
While international copyright law doesn’t exist, you can still get copyright protection overseas. It’s possible if the foreign country is a signatory of the various international IP treaties, such as the Berne Convention or the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement.
Additionally, a US-registered patent is only valid within the country, so you cannot prevent someone overseas from using your patent. There’s also no universal patent that protects a creation worldwide. Thus, you must file for a patent in a specific country to safeguard your US-patented invention.
The same applies to trademarks. There are no treaties that the US has signed to extend trademark protection outside its territory. But you have two options to protect your trademark internationally.
First, you can register your trademark in every country where you need protection. The second alternative is to use the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) Madrid System.
Securing legal protection for your work is the most crucial thing you can do as a creator or inventor. Knowing your work cannot be replicated or misused can be a great source of motivation. Additionally, it allows you to maximize the value of your creative works.
It may seem challenging, especially if you’re only starting to earn a living from them. But working with an experienced attorney can help you understand and decide how to protect your creative work legally.
Author Bio: Shweta is a growth marketing specialist working with 2xSaS. She creates content that converts website visitors into paying customers for SaaS companies. In her free time, she likes driving around the city & hanging out with her friends. You can email Shweta atShweta@2xsas.com
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