A copyright is an effective way to protect your original creative works and your right to profit from those creative works. Licensing is a practice that allows a copyright holder to grant limited usage rights to another party, typically for a fee. But copyright protection and licensing can be quite complex and if not done properly, and if you don’t know how to navigate through the filing and registration process, you can miss out on profits.
Copyrights fall under a branch of business law that’s known as intellectual property law or IP law for short. In addition to copyrighting new works and licensing existing works, a copyright lawyer will also handle cases of infringement. Copyright infringement cases are not always straightforward, and there can be some debate about what constitutes “fair use.”
But this is where you can benefit from working with an experienced licensing and copyright attorney. Sandman Law Office is well-equipped to handle a broad range of cases, from copyright infringement and licensing, to patenting, trademark matters, trade secrets and unfair competition, non-disclosure agreements, business contracts, negotiation, arbitration, litigation and beyond.
If you are involved with a copyright matter, it may be in your best interest to resolve the matter through alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Talk with our experienced ADR attorney to decide if mediation, arbitration or a negotiated settlement could be an option.
What Can You Copyright?
You can copyright lots of different creative works, providing you meet three criteria:
Copyrights can be used to protect items such as:
It should be noted that copyrights cannot be used to protect an idea. For instance, you may have an idea for a storyline about a dog who digs up buried treasure. You cannot copyright that idea, but you can copyright an expression of that idea, such as a children’s book depicting the story or a short film depicting the story.
Additionally, copyright law (and trademark law) offer no protection to titles of individual works. What’s more, you cannot copyright a brief phrase or tagline, although it is possible to trademark certain phrases and taglines. For example, Nike has trademarked the phrase “Just Do It” as one of its branding elements.
What is Copyright Licensing?
Copyright licensing refers to the practice of granting permission to another party who wishes to use (and typically, profit) from your copyrighted works. An express license permits a third party to use copyrighted materials, while the original copyright holder maintains ownership rights to the creative works in question.
For example, let’s say you authored a short story and now, a publisher has offered to publish this short story in a compilation of inspiring stories. So, you might opt to grant a license to this publisher to use your short story in their compilation book.
In most cases, licensing involves the exchange of money, but this is not necessarily the case. For example, if you created a series of dog portraits and a local animal shelter asks for permission to use your portraits in a calendar that they’ll sell as part of a fundraiser, you might opt to grant a license to the animal shelter without charging a fee. It’s also important to note that some limited uses of copyrighted materials fall under the realm of fair use.
As a boutique firm specializing in intellectual property and business law, Sandman Law Office is uniquely positioned to assist with your copyright licensing needs. We understand the process, and can optimize your transactional benefits.
What's Considered Fair Use?
Fair use refers to a few, very specific uses of copyrighted works. Fair use doctrine applies to the following:
When determining if a case involves fair use, additional points may be taken into consideration, such as the context/circumstances of the use, whether the works were used in part or in whole and whether there is an impact on the market value of the works.
If copyrighted works are reproduced without an express license and outside of the realm of fair use, you may have grounds for a copyright infringement claim. A civil claim can serve as a mechanism for recovering damages. Let our team help you to protect the work you have invested in, and provide the benefit you expect.
Your creative work deserves to be seen — and, just as importantly, protected. Sandman Law's copyright expertise allows us to support you with exactly that.