When should a copyright holder pursue legal action?
Copyright infringement can cost a business owner or the creator of a copyrighted work dearly. Not only does the owner or creator of the work now have to contend with attempting to sell or use his or her work in a marketplace that also contains the unauthorized reproduction, but the owner or creator is at a distinct disadvantage in that he or she has invested the time and resources into creating the copyrighted work and needs to recoup these costs whereas the competitor is not in such a position. Copyright laws exist to protect copyright holders from unlawful copyright infringement, but you must act quickly to assert your rights and protect your creation's - and your business's - future.
Do I Have a Copyright Infringement Case?
Just because you have a novel idea or have developed a new creation does not necessarily mean that work or creation is protected against copyright infringement. Copyright protection is only available for literary works, sculptural works, graphical works (such as drawings), musical creations, computer programs, and similar works. Even a technical or computer manual can be copyrighted in most instances. To be eligible for copyright protection, the work must be both a new or novel work and it must be capable of being reduced and recorded in physical form (as a book, for instance). Intangible ideas are generally not eligible for copyright protection.
Obtaining copyright protection for your work gives you, the copyright holder, certain rights:
oYou alone are entitled to make copies of your work;
oYou alone are entitled to create derivative works based upon the protected work (such as a sequel to your book or movie);
oYou alone can distribute whatever copies you wish to the public; and
oYou alone can publicly display your work or have your work performed in public.
A person or company who violates any of these rights may owe you and/or your company monetary damages for infringing upon your copyright.
Copyright Infringement Cases Can Be Complex
Copyright laws (like other intellectual property laws) protect your copyrighted idea from being stolen and subsequently used by an unauthorized person. A rival company cannot (for example) steal a technical manual your company developed and copyrighted and then make its own manual based upon your copyrighted manual. This situation would, in most instances, lead to a successful claim of copyright infringement. However, a company that engages in its own research and development (and that is oblivious to your company's manual) and that creates a manual similar to your company's manual may not have engaged in copyright infringement. An experienced California copyright attorney would need to examine both works and the process that led to the creation of the second work in order to determine if copyright infringement occurred.
This article was originally published on JGPC.com.
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