Friday, December 16, 2016

Why Small Business Owners Need to Understand Copyrights

People see the little copyright sign daily but do they ever stop to think what it really means? We see it in books, music, or any published work daily as we go on with our day. We might hear about them on the news occasionally in dealing with who really owns a certain piece of work, art or even a product.

What is a Copyright? 

Fortunately for small business owners, the Federal Government maintains a system so everybody is able to profit from their own works. These programs give the creator or inventor legal control over how the piece or product is used.  So the copyright is the broadest protection possible in the U.S. because if it is protected it cannot be reproduced in any fashion without the expressed permission of the owner/creator who holds the copyright. There is an end date for the copyright protection and it is the author’s life plus seventy years. 

 What does the Copyright Do?

Work that can be copyrighted is literary compositions, pictures, drawings, sculptures, musical scores, sound recordings, theatrical works, dance techniques/moves, any audio-visual work and architectural drawings. If the idea or product is not physical, then it cannot be protected. The same goes for basic names, phrases, and lists of commonly held information like a phone book. It is important to note that ideas cannot be copyrighted but if it is written down or drawn out, then it can be.

How to Make a Copyright

A copyright is automatic for the creator. To help make that claim stronger, the author should include a copyright notice on the work. This notice has three parts: 1) the word copyright is on it, 2) the year it was published, and 3) the creator’s name. If you want, you can register your work at the U.S. Copyright Office which gives you a stronger claim if you ever have any legal issues arise by going to

In most cases, the creators get the copyright, but there are a few areas where someone else gets the cake. These cases are where a person was hired to do the explicit work. These works are called “Made for Hire” and include portions of a larger literary work like a magazine, film, other AV materials or items like charts.  If the work is translated it also goes to the hiring entity.

Benefits of Copyrights 

The Copyright Act of 1976 gives the copyright owner several rights including: reproduction, distribution, creating adaptations and performance and display. With these rights, the owner has the ability to decide how he wants to profit from the work.

As a small business owner, you may have come upon an idea that you feel will be the next best seller you want to be protected and make money on it.   So follow the process of copyrighting your work at  

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