Copyright in Business: Latest Regulations, Laws, and Protection

How copyright in business affect your business?

Copyright is a legal solution for protecting the creator’s rights to an innovative product. It aims to benefit the creator and promote novelty in different disciplines. The extent of copyright-protected rights is determined by the laws and regulations enacted by national governments. However, as a globally accepted criterion, three factors of fixation, expression, and originality must be considered.

Here are some other legamart blogs about copyright you might enjoy:

Literary Work Copyright; Benefits, Procedure and Best Practices

Detailed Accessible Cinematograph Film Copyright

What is copyright in general?

Copyright is a type of legal protection provided to content creators by assigning special rights to works that meet the criteria for protection. When someone develops innovative and original products, such as literary texts, musical pieces and compositions, movies and screenplays, visual designs, computer software, and other mental creations, it must be safeguarded against illegal use and reproduction.

The primary purpose of copyright in business and other areas is to promote innovation in various disciplines, including technology, science, and culture, while allowing the copyright holder to profit financially from this innovation. This legal framework also makes knowledge and entertainment more accessible to the general public.

What rights does copyright provide for businesses?

what rights does copyright provide for businesses?

Despite the fact that international treaties have established a set of minimum requirements for copyright law, legal protection of copyright in business is a national rather than an international concern, which means that it is the national government’s responsibility to specify the terms and scope of copyright and what it preserves.

Take the Copyright law of the United States, for instance;

 Section 106 of this act provides the following exclusive rights for the copyright holder of an original piece of work:

• The right to reproduce and make copies of an original work;

• The right to prepare derivative works based on the original work;

• The right to distribute copies to the public by sale or another form of transfer, such as rental or lending;

• The right to publicly perform the work;

• The right to publicly display the work;

• The right to perform sound recordings publicly through digital audio transmission.

This act also determines the validity duration of copyrights and clarifies the terms for copyright transfer. According to this law, these rights can be transferred together or individually through licensing or assignment. If the rights are to be transferred exclusively, providing written proof of transmission is obligatory. However, non-exclusive copyright transfer doesn’t need to be in written form.

Regarding the duration of the copyright, in general, every original product is legally protected from publication until 70 years after the creator’s death. This period will be altered if there is more than one creator or the creator is unknown.

What can be protected by copyright in business?

Things that can be protected by copyright in businesses

Not all innovative creations in businesses are eligible to be copyrighted. There are specific criteria for a product to be protected by copyright.


First of all, for a creation to be copyrighted, it must be presented through a “tangible medium of expression.” This criterion, also known as fixation, demands the product to be exhibited in a format that will last longer than a temporary period. For example, a charcoal/ chalk painting on a sidewalk cannot be considered fixed since it usually will fade shortly. Yet, it can be copyright-protected when recorded as a photo or video.


Another requirement for copyright protection is expression. Copyright does not preserve the rights to a mere idea or concept. As a result, the product must be expressed to be distinguished from the specific ideas of others. This is mainly since forbidding innovators from duplicating ideas will result in significant restrictions on creativity and a reduction in the productivity level of innovative lines of work. Such a result is contrary to the purposes we follow by using copyright.


Finally, originality is the most crucial aspect of copyright in business. The entire concept of copyright is based on the author receiving particular benefits in exchange for their mental exertion in creating something new. As a result, when the work is not unique, the inventor will not be entitled to compensation. This means that no one can enjoy the outcome of someone else’s work.

There is no explicit definition for uniqueness; however, national copyright acts and international documents recognise specific thresholds for originality. However, even with these considerations, determining the line between the original and copied versions is not always easy.

It is important to note that in cases where two identical products are expressed simultaneously without any influence from one another, the creators mutually hold the copyrights. For instance, if two composers somehow manage to develop the same piece of music without being exposed to each other’s work, the rights to this music are preserved for both. The most crucial point is that the two of them initially developed the product themselves without any direct inspiration from others’ work.

Taking advantage of copyright for your business

Now that you understand how copyright works and what rights it preserves, you might wonder how it can be used to benefit your company. Copyright can help a business in various ways, some more noticeable than others.

Legal protection of rights

Copyright registration establishes your legal ownership of your work. This proof can ensure that your rights are protected in a legal dispute. 

Financial gains

Copyright-protected products can generate significant financial profit for a corporate group. This legal framework also allows you to use other people’s work for business development purposes under certain conditions.

Avoiding legal disputes

Businesses might use copyright registration as a pre-emptive measure to prevent others from unauthorised utilisation of their work. Registration of copyright in business serves as a public notification of your intellectual property ownership, allowing others to recognise that you are the owner and refrain from using your work without permission. As a result, you will be less likely to be forced into legal conflicts.

Encouraging innovation

Being able to profit from new ideas can motivate your team to try harder to promote originality and creativity in business. This approach eventually leads to improved financial performance and work quality.

Protecting and enhancing reputation

Copyright can easily affect your business reputation, whether you provide a creative copyright-protected product to the market or decide to use other people’s work. Respecting the ownership of others and paying for their work can promote a positive reputation as much as introducing unique ideas.

Duration of Copyright

The Berne Convention establishes a term of copyright as an international convention for protecting literary and creative works. This norm establishes that the minimum period of copyright protection is the author’s lifetime plus an additional period of at least 50 years after death. Copyright protection must be extended for at least 50 years after the death of the author, covering a wide range of creative works.

Variations in Copyright Term

  • While the standard lifetime of protection for works of applied art is 50 years, other nations may set a minimum duration of protection of 25 years. The copyright for films and other cinematic works is typically at least 50 years.
  • Numerous countries, including many within the European Union (EU) and the United States, have opted to extend copyright protections beyond the baseline term provided by the Berne Convention. 
  • Copyright protection is often extended for 70 years after the author’s death in the European Union. In some countries, the period of copyright protection has been extended.
  •  Mexico has one of the longest copyright lengths, which lasts for a full century after the author’s death.
  • Copyright holders and industries often lobby domestic policymakers and legislators to push for copyright extensions. Extending the length of time that an author or their heirs exclusively uses their work is the fundamental goal of copyright extensions. The preservation of cultural artefacts and the public’s access to works in the public domain are just two areas that could be affected by this extension.

Copyright rules and lengths vary widely from country to country and area to region and are susceptible to change over time due to legislative amendments or international treaties. Therefore, to identify the particular duration of copyright protection for a given work, it is required to examine the copyright rules applicable in a specific nation.

Copyright law for business and entrepreneurs

copyright law for business and entreprenuers

As the designers and creators of small and medium-sized enterprises, entrepreneurs deal with matters of copyright while handling their business. The core idea of many of these businesses is a unique concept illustrated in a tangible expression. Even the ones that cannot be described as innovative ideas can still benefit from the innovative ideas of other creators, protected under copyrights.

Copyright can act as a value booster for SMEs; however, there are a few key considerations for business owners: 

  • Mind the general criteria of copyrighted products: As an entrepreneur, you must remember that your creation is only legally protected if captured, fixed and expressed in a tangible form and incorporates the uniqueness factor.
  • Pay for other people’s work: Using the copyright-protected work of other creators can result in legal disputes and monetary loss. One easy way to avoid such obstacles in business is to ensure you have the creator’s permission to use the product or gain it by fair payment. This includes your own employees’ work. If the primary creator of a product is a member of your business team, it is necessary to clarify ownership and entitlement to financial revenues under a contract.
  • Consider legal aspects and requirements: Legal rights and obligations regarding copyright differ in each jurisdiction. To exploit your protected rights under copyright, you have to understand how this protection will come into force and what it protects. You must also pay attention to the length of the protection period under applied law.

By considering these factors, SME owners can benefit from the automatic protection of creator rights offered by law and increase business value. Copyright ownership can also be a subsidiary source of income, not to mention an opportunity to raise funds for the business and expand the market.

What should you copyright in your business?

Obtaining copyright registration over every written material in your business is impractical. Rather, creative works that are especially crucial for your business should be preferred. Some materials that you can prefer copyrighting are:

  • Print materials central to your business. This can include essential brochures, magazines, explanatory customer catalogues, etc. If any of these materials change substantially over time, consider obtaining a new copyright registration for such updated versions. 
  • Elements of your Business Website. One of the parts of promoting your business is to advertise yourself through good web content. Therefore, ensure that the uploaded content on the website obtains the requisite copyright ownership. In case you have hired someone from outside to create the website content for your website, ensure that you have executed a formal assignment agreement to transfer copyright rights over such material. 
  • Advertising and Marketing materials. If you have formed written materials of unique advertising and marketing ideas through your creation, consider copyrighting such materials. This shall ensure that nobody else can advertise and market themselves through the use of the same strategies. 
  • Podcasts and Radio Broadcasts. If your business has started some unique podcast or has been a part of any radio broadcast, it is possible for you to copyright them to ensure that nobody else misuses the content created by you. 

Risks of ignoring copyright protection by businesses

Considering the ease with which it is now possible to access and share information, businesses are faced with challenges in the form of copyright risk management. Today, your business is known through your intellectual property. Even if copyright is automatically assumed on your creation, formally registering it provides you with legal backing, allowing you to have an advantage over infringement issues. However, not having adequate copyright protection means that customers can confuse your copyright with someone else’s, damaging your business profits and reputation and value due to its misuse. 

Further, ignoring copyright protection for your business means that you are not aware of the exceptions and limitations associated with copyright protection. For instance, national copyright laws do not protect private companies from exploiting copyrights for business purposes. However, as someone with no knowledge about this fact or as a company with no proper copyright policy or a copyright compliance officer, you do not have the basis for handling such a crisis. 

Therefore, there can be multiple potential consequences for ignoring your copyright protections:

  1. Capable of damaging your brand reputation. 
  2. Puts your business at risk of being exploited by another business. 
  3. Risks diluting the value of your brand over time. 
  4. Risk of getting an infringement notice for your copyright in the form of a “cease and desist” letter. 
  5. Risks a potential court dispute for claiming rights over your copyright. 

International businesses copyright

Similar to small and medium-sized enterprises, international businesses can use copyright to enhance their performance and financial earnings. International businesses must consider general criteria of legally protected products, too. However, one additional consideration for these businesses is the scope of copyrights.

It was mentioned before that national governments are responsible for developing legal frameworks aiming at protecting the innovative works of creators. It means that copyright law is national in scope and the protection of rights under this law is only territorial.

Territorial protection of copyright can be a challenge for international businesses. To be able to work in international markets, it is essential to seek protection of rights in the markets of interest. Failure to secure intellectual property rights in overseas markets can cause significant financial and reputational loss by allowing competitors to exploit a company’s creative works and products.

Copyright in Different Sectors of Business

Entertainment Industry Copyright 

In the entertainment sector, copyright infringement can manifest in a variety of ways, including the unauthorised distribution, reproduction, public performance, or adaptation of a work protected by copyright law.

Copyright Validity and Ownership: Establishing who owns the copyrights and whether or not they are valid is essential for mediating conflicts. Registration certificates and creation timestamps are good paperwork that can help prove your case. When dealing with copyright problems, it is recommended that you seek the advice of attorneys specialising in intellectual property law or copyright law

Copyright considerations for software and technology companies

Copyright’s primary function is to safeguard the free circulation of ideas rather than the ideas themselves. That’s why it’s possible to obtain intellectual property protection for things like a piece of software’s source code, its layout, and any accompanying artwork. To regulate how their products are used, software developers and publishers rely on licensing agreements. In these contracts, the terms and conditions of users’ access to and usage of the programme are laid down. Protecting your programme against misuse is essential, but so is making it accessible to as many people as possible. Some software developers offer their programs with open-source licences that promote sharing and cooperation. When working with or contributing to open-source projects, being familiar with the license’s precise terms is crucial.

Legal proceedings against infringers may be necessary when copyright is being enforced. Those who infringe on someone else’s copyrights may be subject to monetary damages, injunctive remedies, or licensing fees. 

Copyright and branding in the fashion industry

The protection of creative and original design components in fashion products is at the heart of copyright law in the fashion sector. Designers frequently rely on various forms of intellectual property protection in addition to copyright law, despite the former’s usefulness in protecting some components of the fashion industry.

Graphic and textile designs are protected by copyright in the fashion sector if they meet certain minimal levels of originality. Copyright law also protects distinctive logos. Copyright does not protect specific colours or measurements of garments. Designers frequently use trademark law to protect emblems, colour palettes, and individual components of designs. While copyright protects the originality of a fashion designer’s work, those in the fashion business need to be aware of its limitations and investigate other forms of intellectual property, such as trademarks and design patents.

Other industry-specific copyright concerns

To adequately protect intellectual property and comply with copyright rules, it is necessary to have legal experience and a thorough awareness of industry-specific subtleties, such as:

  • Copyright infringement and illegal book distribution are major issues for the publishing sector, which faces challenges from plagiarism, digital piracy, and fair use concerns.
  • Copyright often does not include structural functionality, thus architects have to work through the challenges of preserving architectural designs. There may be tensions between copyright rights and code compliance.
  • In the realm of music, copyright concerns arise when songs are sampled, remixed, or distributed digitally. The proliferation of streaming services has increased the difficulty of securing the necessary licenses and approvals.
  • The usage of multimedia content and online courses is impacted by the need for educational institutions to consider copyright when employing digital learning resources and defining fair use for teaching purposes.
  • Photography is notorious for copyright infringement, and issues over ownership often emerge, especially in commissioned or collaborative work.
  •  In film and television production, safeguarding scripts and securing clearances for copyrighted elements like music are significant considerations.

Contractors and copyright

Copyright in Contract

A copyright licence agreement is formed when an individual or company is granted permission to utilise copyrighted material. Whether the permission to reproduce or distribute the work is time-limited or perpetual is specified in this agreement.

Implied License

An example of a non-exclusive agreement is an implied licence. In contrast to written agreements, they do not have to be properly documented to be legally binding. Instead, one might deduce them from the participants’ actions and behaviour. Implied licences give the licensee the same rights to use the protected work as the copyright holder would have given in the event of a signed contract between the parties.

Copyright exception related to business

It is important to find a compromise between protecting the rights of copyright holders and advancing the public interest, which is why exceptions to copyright infringement exist. These exemptions recognise that there are societally beneficial instances in which copyrighted content can be used without express authorisation, including in education, criticism, and research.

Copyright law, by allowing for such exemptions while protecting copyright holders’ rights, fosters innovation, education, and the free flow of ideas. Fair use, educational purposes, library and archive access, private usage, and other categories are commonly included in these exceptions. However, they can vary from nation to country. To strike a fair balance between the public’s interest in accessing and using creative works and the rights of copyright holders, they integrate flexibility into copyright regulations.

“Fair dealing,” recognised in some jurisdictions like India, is a prime illustration of these exemptions. As long as the usage is limited to fair dealing activities like research, private study, criticism, review, and news reporting, copyrighted works can be used without the owners’ consent. The specifics of these exceptions and their applicability may change from country to country based on copyright legislation.

Case study: Disney dealing with copyright

Although it may appear obvious to everyone that the original creator of a product is the owner and has all rights to their creation, things are not so simple in the business world. In fact, there have been numerous examples of businesses or people claiming that their work was exploited without their permission.

Disney is one good example of companies implementing their ownership through copyright, with numerous copyright cases, including character names, images, and graphic designs. In reality, all of the friendly characters we remember as the faces of our childhood are intellectual properties, and there have been disputes over ownership of some of them, with Disney suing or being sued.

In 1989, Disney filed a legal suit regarding three day-care centers putting up life-sized pictures of Disney cartoon characters. The company’s lawyers argued that using these pictures gave the impression that the day-cares were sponsored by Disney and claimed that such utilisation was an infringement of Disney’s copyright and could not be justified as fair use.

Despite finally being able to force the day-care centres to remove the pictures, this case brought attention to Disney’s copyright violations and led to another case in which Brown Derby, an LA-based restaurant chain, sued Disney over unauthorised use of the brand’s name on their theme park. Together, these lawsuits caused severe reputational damage to Disney that took so long to recover from.

Final words

To sum it all up, copyright is a legal notion that preserves certain rights for an author who not only came up with an original idea but also expressed it in a tangible fixed framework. When it comes to companies, copyright in business can be either the ladder that takes you to the top or the stone that makes you trip. As a result, business owners must understand the legal consequences of dealing with copyright. 

If you are a business owner in need of help, our lawyers at LegaMart can answer your questions and help you make the right decisions.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Should you register a copyright for your website?

Regarding copyright, the protection exists for you from the moment of your creation. This means that as soon as you have created your website and uploaded content on it, you can claim copyright protection over it, and it is not necessary to register the copyright. However, it is advised to register your copyright to avail more legal protection properly. This is because you can only file an infringement claim and successfully protect your copyright after registering.

Are there international copyright protections?

Yes. Countries often prefer participating in copyright treaties and conventions to ease seeking protection in multiple countries. This can be done through the Berne Convention and the WIPO Copyright Treaty. 

What constitutes copyright infringement? What are the defences of copyright infringement?

Reproduction, distribution, performance, or public display of copyrighted material without the express permission of the copyright holder constitutes copyright infringement. In such cases, the copyright owner can claim damages from the infringer.

However, it is possible to claim some defences to copyright infringement to save yourself from providing the applicable damages. Some examples are:

  • Innocent Infringement
  • Fair use
  • Independent creation of work without copying
  • Use of work under license agreement with the copyright holder
  • Abandonment by copyright holder 

Can logos be protected under both copyright and trademark?

Yes, logos can be protected under both copyright and trademark. This is because logos are considered to be original artistic works which involve an element of creativity, resulting in copyright protection. Further, since logos are also used for distinguishing the goods or services of one brand from the other, it is also covered as a trademark protection. 

Is it possible to copyright a business idea?

Copyright protection is only provided to expressions of a business idea, not the idea itself. Therefore, the idea needs to be translated into a tangible form to obtain copyright protection. For example – you cannot copyright the idea of starting a social networking website. Rather, what you can copyright are the computer codes, graphics, and layout of your website. 

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