Copyright confers automatic protection on an original literary or artistic work that takes a certain form:
"literary and artistic works"
The term "literary and artistic works" is interpreted broadly to include, for example, manuscripts, photographs, architectural plans, software codes, furniture, designs, packaging and shapes of products (not only products that represent a certain design but also technically oriented products), meeting reports, advertisements, etc.
A work that bears the stamp of its author's personality will be considered original, without any particular artistic or aesthetic characteristics being required. As far as architectural plans are concerned, for example, such plans will be considered an original work if they result from an intellectual effort by the author and are not dictated solely by a technical requirement that would have led to the same result regardless of the architect's identity. This "personal stamp" requirement presupposes that the primary source of the work is not a prior creation but rather the author's own independent conception.
"that takes a certain form"
This requirement implies that a mere idea cannot be protected by copyright. A concept for a computer program, for example, will not qualify for protection until it has been set down in lines of code.
A copyright confers a number of benefits:
Ownership: Only the copyright-holder has a right to use a copyrighted work. All others must seek permission from the owner to use a copyrighted work. Authors, musicians, artists and others often license use of their copyrighted works, as a means of earning income from their creations. (There are some exceptions to this - such as the legal concept of "fair use" - which allows small excerpts of works, in limited cases).
Longevity: Copyright protection under modern law lasts for _70 years afte_r the author's death, which is a considerably longer term than existed before the legal updates of recent decades.
Penalties: Copyright law stipulates monetary penalties for infringing upon -- that is, using without permission -- another's copyrighted work. Fines vary, but they can be substantial and are based on a court determination of financial damage to the copyright-holder, in terms of lost sales, legal fees, and so on. Coverage: Federal law and international treaties means that your copyright is protected not only in the United States, but also in most countries around the world.
Clarity: The law provides some amount of insight into copyright ownership in complex situations. Most pertinent to business owners is the creation of "works for hire." If an employee creates a pamphlet or website for your business, for example, the copyright is generally held by the business rather than the individual employee. Because ownership is not always totally clear (works by contractors can be complex), it is useful to specify copyright ownership in any contracts you enter into for creative works.
As a general rule, copyright benefits the author of the work, namely the natural person that created the work. Business leaders should thus ensure that the company's employment contracts and service agreements contain an IP clause, providing for the assignment to the company of all copyright in created works, in the broadest sense possible. In this regard, the law sets forth precise rules which must be respected. It should be noted that there is a significant exception for computer programs. Indeed, in the absence of a provision to the contrary, copyright and all other "economic rights relating to computer programs created by one or more employees or agents in the performance of their duties or further to the employer's instructions" are deemed assigned to the employer.
Firstly, it is advisable to arrange for proof of the date of creation of works. Indeed, this will allow you, if necessary, to object to a later creation that appears to be based on your earlier work. Such proof can, for example, be obtained by filing a copy of the work with a notary.
Furthermore, copyright requires the proper management of contracts with the legal entities (for example, sub-contractors) and natural persons at the origin of the protected creations. In particular, it is important to include in your contracts clauses providing for the assignment of IP rights. In this regard, it is important to distinguish several scenarios. The law provides more flexible rules for works created by employees or in the performance of a work for hire, provided the person that placed the order is engaged in a non-cultural activity or advertising. The contract must also contain sufficient guarantees, notably with regard to the fact that the assigned or licensed works do not infringe third-party rights.
If a third party is authorised to use or reproduce protected works (for example, a manufacturer to whom the author grants the right to produce and sell design products), it is advisable to sign a license agreement in due form. As with the licensing of a patent or trademark, this precaution is necessary in order to ensure adequate protection of the granted rights. The contract should cover the following points in particular:
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