What Entrepreneurs Should Know About Copyrights (Part 1)

Do you know what you can protect, how to secure your rights, and what constitutes copyright infringement? If not, then these three posts are for you!

This post one covers what you can protect; part two explains how to secure your rights; and part three will explore copyright infringement.

What is a Copyright

A copyright is just that: the right to copy a particular work.

The more thorough answer is that a copyright is a form of intellectual property that grants the owner certain exclusive rights with respect to original works of authorships. These rights stem from federal law (not state law) and originate from the U.S. Copyright Act.

Copyright owners have the exclusive right to:

  • Reproduce the work
  • Distribute the work
  • Publicly display the work
  • Publicly perform the work
  • Create derivative works of the work

This means they can prevent other people from exercising those rights during the duration of the copyright.

What You Can Protect

Scope

Generally speaking, the kinds of works you can protect under the Copyright Act are creative in nature and include things like music, art, writings, dance choreography, and more. But copyright protection also extends to business documents, presentations, and even computer code.

You can’t copyright an idea

The important catch here is that you cannot copyright an idea. Rather, you can only protect your original expression of an idea.

For example, you cannot protect the idea of an app that tracks which bars you frequent. However, if you actually develop the app (ie, write the code), then you can protect your specific code, the design of the app itself, the copy used in the app, etc. But even then, your protection would only extend to those portions which are original. So you couldn’t protect your square button with rounded edges because that’s not original.

More on copyrights:

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*This article is very general in nature and does not constitute legal advice.