If you own a business, buy a business, or if you are about to launch a new business in Florida, you must decide how to protect your intellectual property effectively. You may need to register the copyrights to your intellectual property with help from a central Florida copyright lawyer.

Why is copyright protection important? What steps should you take? Exactly how does a registered copyright protect intellectual property? Keep reading, and these questions will be answered, and you’ll learn more about copyrights, copyright infringement, and intellectual property.

A copyright is a group of rights that are automatically conferred on someone who produces an original work of authorship, like a song, movie, literary work, or software. These rights include the right to replicate the work, to make derivative works, to distribute copies, and to perform and exhibit the work in public.

Why is Copyright Registration So Important?

When any creative work has been preserved in a tangible format, meaning a fixed medium such as a drawing, sheet music, manuscript, photograph, videotape, or a computer file, the creator may exercise exclusive rights to the created work – but to protect these exclusive rights, they need to have the copyright registered or utilize common law copyright protection.

Formal copyright registration with the U.S. Copyright Office serves as a public notice that the copyright holder has a legitimate copyright, and it empowers the copyright holder to seek damages with a civil lawsuit if a copyright infringement occurs.

Copyrights were originally a concern primarily for authors, artists, and musicians, but in the 21st century, copyrights can be the focus of complicated lawsuits over computer programs, software, chemical and mathematical formulas, and other important intellectual property. Consequently, businesses should consider the use of copyright protection registering the copyright of original training materials, employee handbooks, websites, and other original business-related print and digital materials.

What Items May Need Copyright Protection?

A copyright is meant to protect a creative work but not necessarily to protect the ideas expressed in the work. Intellectual property and creative works that may need copyright registration include but are not limited to:

1. Literary creations
2. Musical creations, including lyrics
3. Dramatic creations, including music
4. Choreographic creations, including pantomimes
5. Graphic, sculptural, and pictorial creations
6. Motion pictures, short videos, and other audiovisual creations
7. Recordings
8. Computer software, programs, and games
9. Architectural creations

Copyright registration lets creators, whether they’re businesses or individuals, profit from their creation. Without that protection, there would be little to motivate a creator, because there would be no way to assert ownership of the creation or to protect it from misappropriation or theft.

How Long Is Copyright Protection in Effect?

How long does the protection of a copyright last? For something created by an individual, the protection extends for seventy years beyond the creator’s lifetime. This lets a creator and his or her family profit from the work before it goes into the public domain.

For works that are created pseudonymously, anonymously, or for hire, the protection is for 95 years from the publication date or 120 years from the work’s creation date – whichever period is shorter.

What Are the Rights of Copyright Owners?

Under the federal Copyright Act of 1976, the owners of copyrights enjoy exclusive legal rights that include the right to:

1. Distribute a copyrighted work
2. Reproduce a copyrighted work
3. Publicly display or perform a copyrighted work
4. Create additional and derivative works based on a copyrighted work

If your Florida business creates, licenses, or distributes creative works, copyright protection is imperative to the success of your operation. When a person or a business violates a copyright owner’s rights, that person or business may be liable for copyright infringement.

How Should You Deal with Copyright Infringement?

If your intellectual property rights are violated, you must be represented by a business attorney who will act aggressively and effectively to make sure that your interests are protected.

To prevail with a lawsuit for copyright infringement, you and your lawyer must demonstrate that:

1. The defendant had access to the copyrighted work
2. The purportedly infringing material represents a copy of the copyrighted work

If the allegedly infringing material is not substantially similar to the copyrighted work, or if the defendant had no access to the copyrighted work, a copyright infringement lawsuit will have little chance of prevailing.

However, if you and your attorney can prove that the defendant had access to the copyrighted work, and that the allegedly infringing material is substantially similar to the copyrighted work, the defendant can be ordered to stop the infringement and to pay you damages.

What Are the Benefits of Copyright Registration?

Formal copyright registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is a must for individuals and businesses that create, license, and/or distribute creative works. A good copyright attorney can explain and walk you through the process.

The benefits of formal copyright registration include:

1. “Constructive Notice”: Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office provides “constructive notice” to the public that the owner of a creative work claims exclusivity.

2. “Statutory” Damages: Without registration, a copyright owner who sues for infringement must prove “actual” damages – how much was lost due to the infringement. But a registered copyright owner may instead seek “statutory” damages that can total $150,000.

Are Other Damages Available in Copyright Infringement Cases?

Along with statutory or actual damages, copyright owners who bring copyright infringement actions may also seek damages to recover any profits made by the infringement, court costs, and lawyer’s fees.

Copyrights reward creativity and provide the creators with commercial and economic benefits. If you own a business in Florida that creates, licenses, or distributes creative works, take advantage of the protection that a registered copyright provides.

Digital works – text, music, graphics, and video – are protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. The statute provides considerable copyright protection for materials published online.

Have the Right Attorney on Your Side

A good central Florida copyright lawyer will ensure that you register any copyrights that your business needs.

In Florida, if a copyright infringement matter arises, it is typically settled in private, out-of-court negotiations. But if the attorneys for both sides meet and no settlement is possible, your attorney may recommend filing a copyright infringement lawsuit – and asking for damages.

If you do not safeguard intellectual property adequately, your competition or even your employees could steal it and make profits that are rightfully yours. Don’t let that happen.

The right business lawyer will help you put solutions in place before legal problems arise. If your Florida-based business involves creative works, you must have a lawyer on your team who has substantial experience with copyright infringement and intellectual property protection.