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When Should A Business Use Copyrights?

Sep 13, 2012

Can you provide information regarding copywrites? Is it necessary for me to protect documents I produce internally for my consulting/coaching business? If so, what do I need to do?

By Karen Kitchens, Intellectual Property/Documents Librarian, Wyoming State Library,, guest submitter.

Businesses generally possess a wealth of copyrightable information. Copyright is a form of intellectual property (IP) protection that protects original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible form of expression, including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, architecture. Literary works, meaning those expressed in letters and numbers, possessing a minimum of creativity, are eligible for copyright protection. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Examples of copyrightable works your business may possess include advertising and marketing materials, Power Point® presentations, and other audiovisual works.  Copyright is granted by the U.S. Copyright Office. Since March 1, 1989, works are not required to display a copyright notice – the symbol © (the letter C in a circle), or the word “Copyright,” or the abbreviation “Copr”.

Copyright is protected under title 17, United States Code. It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by this law to copyright owners. Protection under The Copyright Act of 1976 is secure until seventy years after the death of the author. Just as patent protection extends to any useful, nonobvious, novel application of an idea, copyright protection is centered on the original expression of an idea. The basic concept of copyright is originality. 

It is not necessary to formally register your creation by officially filing with the U.S. Copyright Office. Nonetheless, you are free to display the symbol © with your work as soon as it is made. It is important to recognize that even though copyright status is automatically granted; legal action can only be taken by you against an infringement if your work is registered.

Whether or not your work is currently registered, you may wish to use the © symbol. This leaves no doubt that your IP belongs to you. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is only valid within the United States. There is no international copyright.  Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends on the national laws of that country.

In general, copyright registration is a legal formality intended to make a public record of the basic facts of a particular copyright. If made before or within three months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorneys’ fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Registration also allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies.

To register a work, contact:
Library of Congress
Copyright Office
101 Independence Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20559-6000
1-877-476-0778 (toll free)

Tags: copyright

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