What is a Copyright?
Copyright is the collective name for the rights to control (1) reproduction (additional copies), (2) preparation of derivative works (aka adaptations), (3) distribution of copies (think sales, rental, lease, licensing), (4) public performances, and (5) public displays. You may see the © symbol displayed next to registered copyrights.
How can I get a Copyright?
A copyright is automatically established for any original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium. There are a lot of legal terms packed into that simple statement, but a knowledgeable attorney can help to explain those terms if you’re unsure or would like a more in depth knowledge on the subject. Let’s start with the “author” term. You can’t register what isn’t yours unless you’ve been expressly authorized to do so. Next, is the “originality” term. The short explanation for “originality” is that the Copyright Office is looking for at least a bit of creative spark in the expression. So even if it is a compilation work that is composed of non-original material, then it can still potentially qualify as original if there is evidence of the creative spark in the presentation, arrangement, format, etc. Don’t forget the requirement that it be fixed in a tangible medium. For this, mediums that store digital information have been identified as qualifying. So a digital file containing a work is considered fixed. A copyright registration can be done through the Library of Congress (www.copyright.gov).
Why do I need a Copyright?
Copyright protection helps protect your economic interests in a work. As with trademarks, registration of a copyright allows for significant additional legal options that can help you to defend your work and enforce your rights. Furthermore, if you’re looking to sell or license your work, then having a registered copyright is critical. A buyer that sees copyrights knows you are authorized to contract and can rely on your rights to protect the work the buyer is paying for.
How much does a Copyright cost?
Copyrights are automatically created upon the author fixing the work in the tangible medium, but registration of the copyright will cost certain fees assessed by the Copyright Office. A schedule of these fees can be seen here. Currently, the basic Copyright Office fee for registering a single copyright can range between $35 -85 depending on the nature of the copyright and the application method. An attorney will charge a separate fee for the services they perform. Be clear on what you’re getting for your money.