THE ANNALS OF COPYRIGHT NUMBER 2 « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


You May Have a Copyrighted Work and Don’t Know It

If you have ever written a story, poem, novel, essay, research paper, or song, taken a photograph or video, performed music, or been in a play or a film, you were at some point a copyright owner. However, you may not still own those rights if you have sold, assigned or otherwise given those rights away. Loss of rights might be by a formal agreement, for example through an entertainment, publishing or music industry contract, or by some other means. If you were an employee in the U.S. when you made your creation, your employer owns the copyrights, based on U.S. law and the concept of “work-made-for-hire.”

A copyright is an owner’s exclusive right to do certain things with an original work and to prevent others from doing so without permission. For example, under U.S. law, the owner is entitled to protect an original work from being copied by others in whole or in part, whether by photocopy or by audio or video copy. Copyright also protects the right to publicly perform or display an original work, to make derivative works from it, and to sell, lease or license copies of it to others. Copyright protects your tangible, specific expressions of your creation, but not the idea or concept behind it.

If you – or one of your employees while on the job – create a written work, sound recording, musical composition, graphic design, architectural plan, photograph, or many other creative works, that creation is copyrighted even if you never take any action to protect it legally.

Nevertheless, there are good reasons why you should protect your copyrighted works by registering them with the U.S. Copyright Office. Registration carries the right to file suit if an infringement occurs, as well as the rights to collect so-called “statutory damages,” set amounts that do not require proof of actual money loss, as well as attorney fees. Especially if you publish or broadcast your copyrighted work in a manner that it could easily be infringed, it is better to file for a registration early on than to have to scramble to register after an infringement occurs, incurring higher expedite fees in the process and missing out on some of the remedies available to a registered copyright owner.

There is of course much more to the process. If you need help with your copyrights, please contact our Of Counsel attorney, Helena Kobrin.