VLF Video Educational Series – Why Copyrights Are Important to Small Businesses


Darren: I’m Darren Singhe with the Vethan Law Firm.

Adriana: Adriana Hernandez with the Vethan Law Firm.

Darren: We are pleased to present the next in our video educational series in which we make the business case for copyrights.

Adriana: Okay, Darren so we know that copyrights protect things like music videos, major motions pictures, YouTube productions, why should a small business owner care about a copyright?

Darren: Yeah, that’s a great question. The truth is small businesses sometimes have some of the most valuable intellectual property out there, copyrights are a part of that in ways you might not even think. If your business is involved in creating websites, taking photographs, taking videos, if you create original drawings, if you are actually involved in the design of everything from the room to building, to a garment of clothing, you have things that can be protected.

Adriana: Intellectual property, that sounds like a legal concept. Why should business care about this?

Darren: That’s a great question, Intellectual Property or IP as lawyers call it is something that businesses of all sizes need to be concerned about. The common sense when we are looking at this. Really there’s three aspects.

One, branding, good IP helps your company stand out.  It helps you to be the sole source of something, original ideas and expressions.

Next thing it does it helps you build value. Intellectual Property which copyrights are a part can create actual assets for your company.

Next point is leverage. When you have a good Intellectual Property Portfolio, you have a good basis for growth, for taking on new partners or for selling the company. It’s all part of what makes copyrights and other Intellectual Property valuable to small business.

Adriana we talked about Intellectual Property generally but amongst all those different rights, what is it about copyrights? What do copyrights themselves actually do?

Adriana: That’s a great question. Copyrights protect original works for authorship that includes things like literary works, musical works, sound recordings and etc.

Darren: Is it just enough to be just original?

Adriana: No, it also needs to be a fixed and in a tangible medium. When I say that, what I mean that it has to be something that you can touch, feel, hear or see.

Darren: I hear you basically said two things, copyrights need to original works of authorship, fixed and intangible medium. Based on those two things, is there anything that you can’t copyright?

Adriana: Yes, there are a few things  you can’t copyright. You can’t copyright a fact. For example, a bare bones calendar can’t be protected by copyright protection because that’s information that’s widely known to everyone. Other things that you can’t copyright are things like mathematical formulas, words, short phrases and slogans and just mere ideas.

Darren: Okay, now that we know what a copyright is, who gets to claim it?

Adriana: Well, when a copyright arises, it belongs to the author of the work. If there’s more than one author, the co-authors are joint owners of the copyright.

Darren: What if someone’s hired to create something, what happens there?

Adriana: That’s a great question so when a work is made by an employee, the copyright of that work belongs to the employer and not the employee generally.

Darren: Is that what we call Work for Hire Doctrine?

Adriana: Exactly. Okay Darren so now that we know what a copyright is and who gets it, what is the copyright that you deal?

Darren: This is the fun part, this is the business end of copyright. The first thing you need to remember is that they create what’s called exclusive rights. Basically copyrights help you exclude other people from doing any of the things that you want to do with this original work, fixing the tangible medium.

It helps you stop anybody from copying it or reproducing it. It helps people stop others from distributing things, creating derivative works and performing them, all the kinds of things that you need to do to create a little monopoly for yourself on your original work for your company.

Okay Adriana, now that we know what a copyright is, why it’s important and who gets it, how do you get it?

Adriana: That’s a great question. A copyright arises automatically when the work is created but if you want to enforce your copyright against an infringer, you have to register your copyright with the US Copyright Office.

It’s a fairly straight forward process, you file an application, pay a filing fee and submit a non-returnable deposit of the work.

Darren: Once you’ve done that, once you’ve obtained it, it’s essentially protected for this statutory period which changes a little bit depending on who the author is. If it’s an individual, it’s life plus 70 years. But if it’s more than one author, joint authorship scenario, it’s the last surviving author plus seventy years.  If it’s a work for hire, effectively it’s at least 95 years.

Thanks for joining us in VLF’s latest educational video series installment, in which we make the business case for copyrights.

Adriana: Remember at the Vethan Law Firm, your problem is our business.

I wanted to personally thank you and your staff again for doing such a great job. VLF has been simply amazing. Their professionalism, negotiating skills, and knowledge of the law have simply been a lifesaver for my business. The overall settlement was so much more than we ever expected and hoped for. Simply put, they saved my company. I cannot say enough about your firm and its staff. Thanks to you, my company will continue to grow and be profitable. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Scott Stephens President, Custom Shop Guitars of Texas, LLC Vethan Law Firm, P.C. April 10, 2016

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