Copyright in Business: Latest Regulations, Laws, and Protection
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 are required in order to address copyright.
Copyright is not limited to business. Here are other samples of 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 products that are considered innovative and original, such as literary texts, musical pieces and compositions, movies and screenplays, visual designs, computer software, and other forms of mental creations, it needs to be safeguarded against illegal use and reproduction.
The primary purpose of copyright in business and other areas is to promote innovation in a variety of disciplines, including technology, science, and culture, while also 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?
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 national governments’ 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, all of these rights can be transferred together or individually through licensing or assignment. If the rights are to be transferred exclusively, it is obligatory to provide written proof of transmission. 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 the date of publication until 70 years after the creator’s death. This period will be altered if there is more than one creator or if the creator is unknown.
What can be protected by copyright in business?
Not all innovative creations in businesses are eligible to be copyrighted. There are certain 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 criteria, also known as fixation, demands the product to be exhibited in a format that necessarily will last more than a temporary period. For example, a charcoal/ chalk painting on a sidewalk cannot be considered fixed since it normally will fade after a short while. 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 in order to be distinguished from the specific ideas of others. This is mainly due to the fact that forbidding innovators from duplication of ideas will result in significant restrictions on creativity and a reduction in the productivity level of innovative lines of work. Such a result is basically 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 simply 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 recognize specific thresholds for originality. Although even with these considerations, determining the line between original work and copied version is not always easy.
It is important to note that in cases where two identical products are expressed at the same time without any influence from one another, the creators mutually hold the copyrights. For instance, if two composers somehow manage to develop the exact 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 here is that the two of them have to initially come up with 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 a variety of ways, some of which are 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 the event of a legal dispute.
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 unauthorized utilization of their work. Registration of copyright in business serves as a public notification of your intellectual property ownership, allowing others to recognize 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.
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 positive reputation as much as introducing unique ideas.
Copyright law for business and entrepreneurs
As the designer and creator of small and medium sized enterprises, entrepreneurs essentially deal with matters of copyright while handling their business. The core idea of a lot of these businesses is a unique concept illustrated in the shape of a tangible expression. Even the ones that cannot be described as innovative ideas, can still benefit from 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 it is captured, fixed and expressed in a tangible form and incorporates the uniqueness factor.
- Pay for other people’s work: using 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 make sure you have the creator’s permission to use the product or you 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. In order to exploit your protected rights under copyright, you have to understand how these protection will come into force and what it protects. You must also pay attention to the length of protection period under applied law.
By taking these factors into account, SME owners can benefit from an automatic protection of creator rights offered by law, as well as increasing business value. Copyright ownership can also be a subsidiary source of income, not to mention, an opportunity to raise funds for the business and expanding market.
International businesses copyright
Similar to small and medium sized enterprises, international businesses can take advantage of copyright to enhance their performance and financial earnings. Needless to say, international businesses must consider general criteria of legally protected products too. However, there is one additional consideration for these businesses which is the scope of copyrights.
It was mentioned before that national governments are responsible for developing legal frameworks aiming at protecting 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.
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 utilization was an infringement of Disney’s copyright and could not be justified as fair use.
In spite of them finally being able to force the day-care centers to remove the pictures, this case brought attention to Disney’s own copyright violations and led to another case in which Brown Derby, an LA-based restaurant chain, sued Disney over unauthorized 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.
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 the idea 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, it is critical for business owners to 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.