Having experienced copyright counsel can be the difference between protecting your intellectual property and losing the economic value of your work. Copyright law covers an extremely wide range of topics - it is an entire field of study and one can spend their legal, business or academic career focused on this topic. Generally stated, a copyright protects an original work of authorship that can falls into one of a set of enumerated categories. If you are a creator of any kind - film, author or screenwriter, musician, composer, choreographer, sculptor or architect - you have to be proactive is protecting your creative output, through copyright registration, and enforcement in court if you find someone infringing on your protected work.
The Penalties for Copyright Infringement
The penalties for infringement can be a severe financial hardship. The Copyright Act provides that an infringer can be held liable for:
- the copyright owner's actual damages and any additional profits of the infringer; or
- statutory damages as follows: between $750 and $30,000 per infringement as the court deems just; and
- the plaintiff’s attorneys fees and court costs if the plaintiff prevails in the litigation.
What Can Be Protected?
The Copyright Act defines eight categories into which a work must fall to be entitled to protection:
- Literary Works
- Musical Works
- Dramatic Works
- Pantomimes and Choreographic Works
- Pictorial, Graphic and Sculptural Works
- Motion Pictures and Other Audiovisual Works
- Sound Recordings
- Architectural Work
What is The Fair Use Doctrine?
One of the key doctrines of copyright law is the concept of fair use. Fair Use is, simply stated, a defense to a copyright infringement claim. This doctrine allows for, in certain, limited circumstances, the unlicensed use of copyrighted works. The Copyright Act provides provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.