Copyright law is one of the three major forms of intellectual property, along with trademark law and patent law. Unlike trademark law, which primarily deals with brands, and patent law, which deals with inventions, copyrights protect “creative works,” and give authors and creators protection for their writings, photos, drawings, sculptures, movies, and more, like computer code and audio. To more learn more about the differences in trademarks vs. copyrights, click here.
Copyright protection is not unlimited and does not protect overarching ideas. Instead, it protects an author’s specific expression of an idea and can be used to prevent others from copying directly or creating their own work that is substantially similar to the author’s original work. While it has limits, copyright protection can be a powerful tool to stop others from stealing or otherwise making unauthorized copies of an author’s creative works.
What is a copyright registration?
A copyright is born the moment you produce a creative work–the moment you finish your drawing or the moment you take a photograph, this basic protection is created automatically, free to maintain, and valid worldwide. Because of this, registering a copyright with the US Copyright Office is not a requirement, and failure to do so will not result in a loss of the copyright itself. However, there are many benefits to copyright registration in the United States, including access to legal courts to file a lawsuit, attorneys fees, and enhanced damages. It can also help investors and buyers evaluate and recognize your copyrights as an asset for you and your business.
Federal copyright applications are filed with the US Copyright Office and, in comparison with other federal review processes, the procedure for obtaining a copyright registration is fairly simple and inexpensive. The timeline from the submission of the application to the finalized registration typically takes about four to five months; however, this time period can be extended depending on the subject matter of the copyright. Applicants are protected as of the date of the application once their copyright does register.