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Protecting Your Creative Work Through Copyrights

Copyright law allows those who produce creative work — software developers, artists, photographers, writers, musicians and others — to protect the creative expression in their work, as well as any financial rewards it may produce. At Hovey Williams LLP, our intellectual property attorneys work closely with individuals to preserve their rights through copyright laws.

Copyright protection exists once a work is created and lasts for the artist's life plus 70 years. Registration is not required, although registrations provide many benefits. For instance, a person wishing to pursue legal action against someone else for infringement of a copyrighted work must register that work with the U.S. Copyright Office. A partial list of what copyright protects includes:

  • Literary works
  • Visual artwork
  • Performing art works
  • Sound recordings
  • Computer programs
  • Computer applications (apps)
  • Architectural designs

Understanding What Copyright Does Not Protect

Copyright protects the manner in which a work is expressed or articulated. It is important to note that copyrights do not protect ideas, designs, processes, a distinctive word or phrase, a logo, or other graphic material. Much of that intellectual property can be protected through trademark, trade secret, or patent laws.

The United States has agreements regarding copyright laws with a number of other countries. This means materials that are copyrighted in the U.S. are protected in these countries as well. Our attorneys can help you determine in which countries U.S. copyright laws do not apply.

Work For Hire And Copyright Laws

Our attorneys are well-versed in the work-for-hire doctrine. If you are an employee who creates content or other works in the course of your employment, then your employer likely owns all of the copyrights in those works. Conversely, independent contractors, such as freelance journalists, artists, photographers and screenwriters, may retain copyrights in the works they prepare for others, even if they have been paid to create the works. Under those circumstances, it may be critical to have the parties enter into a work-for-hire agreement or copyright assignment agreement.

Commissioned works fall into several categories. They may or may not be able to be copyrighted. If you have any concerns about your rights regarding freelance or commissioned work, it is wise to consult with one of our knowledgeable copyright lawyers before agreeing to terms of a contract.

Copyright Enforcement Issues

Whether a copyright owner or an infringement defendant, we understand that clients want specialized advice that is focused on the best possible outcome for their circumstances and business objectives. We counsel clients regarding the different strategic options that they may have, which often make litigation unnecessary. We work to resolve these disputes efficiently and cost-effectively.

Call or use our online contact form to schedule a meeting. The legal work involved with registering or litigating copyrighted work is primarily paperless. From our office in metro Kansas City, we represent clients locally, nationally and internationally in copyrights matters.